The Boston Celtics will face the Cleveland Cavaliers again at the Quicken Loans Arena Saturday at 7:30 pm in their preseason finale. The Cavaliers defeated the Celtics, 102-95, in their first meeting of the preseason on Tuesday.
The NBA preseason is a lot like junior high school; sure, the grades won’t show up on your college applications, but the study habits you build then will help determine whether or not you succeed in high school.
Unfortunately, the Boston Celtics have been treating preseason as if the grades don’t matter and they already know how to study well, so they might as well just save the effort for high school.
Of course, that type of effort is not going to fly with Boston coach Brad Stevens, whose favorite book is The Growth Mindset and who is one of the most process-oriented people in the Northeast region.
After an abominable showing in a loss to Cleveland on Tuesday at home, Stevens ripped into his team and called everybody out for their lack of effort.
In his postgame media appearance on NBC Sports Boston, Stevens said, “I couldn’t be more unimpressed after our first three exhibition games. We’re not as good as advertised. So at least we know that.”
Though Stevens, who has a reputation as an incredibly detail-oriented coach, expressed his displeasure at his team’s approach to preseason basketball thus far, the players still seem to be taking a much more care-free and relaxed attitude.
Via Chris Forsberg of NBC Sports Boston, Marcus Morris said:
“I don’t see [reason for concern]; It’s preseason,” said Morris. “We have a lot to look forward to this year so I can understand [Stevens’] concerns. At the same time, preseason is for learning and things like that. I think we’ll get back on the right page.”
When asked about Boston’s defensive struggles through three games, reserve guard Marcus Smart had a different, but equally baffling response.
Consider me outright shocked that Marcus Smart of all people doesn’t practice his defense in the offseason. And apparently his teammates don’t either.
As a former high school basketball player, I can remember doing wall sits, defensive slides, and closeout drills alone in the gym in order to improve my defense. It’s hard for me to believe that most of the league, including one of the NBA’s toughest defenders, doesn’t work on one of the most impactful skills, which also happens to be relatively easy to improve upon with hard work.
Whether Smart’s statement is true or not, the Celtics need to change their mindset heading into the preseason finale against the Cavaliers at the Quicken Loans Arena Saturday night at 7:30.
With Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward both sitting out tonight’s game, Boston will have to play with much more intensity and focus on both ends of the court in order to please their perfectionist coach.
Preseason success is certainly not an indicator of a team’s regular season record, and its not time to worry yet, but Stevens is right to express concern and his players should heed his warning.
The Celtics have big dreams and goals this season and those visions don’t just appear in June, they are built over the course of a long season. Basketball is a game of muscle memory; each time a player repeats an action a bundle of neurons is firing in his brain and growing stronger.
The more a player and a team practice bad habits, the more likely those habits are to pop up under the most pressure-filled situations. Let’s not forget that the Golden State Warriors spent most of last season loafing at their ease and sitting on their high horse, only to be nearly dethroned by an inferior Houston Rockets team in the Western Conference Finals.
Were it not for a Chris Paul injury, a poorly-timed Rockets brick fest, and the otherworldly talent of Golden State’s stars, the Warriors would have paid the price for laziness allowed to linger with the team all season long.
Boston has no need to panic during preseason, but the Celtics ought to beware the road to a championship begins with a single step in preseason and a pebble in your shoe now can create blisters that effect you in the final stages of the journey.