As Brad Stevens approaches this season with the Celtics team he thought he would have a year ago, there’s one thing he’s not going to do with potential 2019 free agent Kyrie Irving, and that’s look a year ahead.
Of Irving’s looming free agency after this season, Stevens tells Yahoo Sports’ Chris Mannix on Mannix’s podcast: “I’m not going to talk to him about it at all. One of the things I want to do is give everything I can to all these guys while they’re here. Hopefully, the people that are here recognize that it’s a really good environment with a high upside for a long time. It’s someplace that will be committed to them, committed to their overall game and enhancement and off the court and everything else. There’s no real discussion to be had. It’s more, ‘We can’t wait to get to work.’ ”
New @YahooSportsNBA Pod: Brad Stevens (@BCCoachStevens) on Game 7, LeBron going west, Boston’s battle for starting spots, playing with expectations, much more.
— Chris Mannix (@ChrisMannixYS) August 7, 2018
Vegas has the Celtics the favorites to retain Irving, with the Knicks close behind.
Stevens knows expectations have been raised after his team reached Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals and now that the obstacle of LeBron James has been removed from the East. He says his team is “itching to get started.”
“As long as you’re in this though, you’re just focused on what’s next. You don’t think of it like a college season where you hand out awards and have a banquet at the end,” Stevens said. “We were all disappointed with how it ended. That was the beauty of that team — it didn’t really buy into everybody else’s thoughts…We’ll all improve from the experience, but there’s no question, we’re itching to get started.”
After having just four returning players a year ago and losing his top two players in their debut seasons in Boston – Irving to a knee injury from March through the playoffs and Gordon Hayward with a leg and ankle injury just five minutes into the opener – Stevens is looking forward to having continuity on his roster.
“Obviously, we’ve had so much change in the past five years, that we were really prioritizing maintaining some continuity this year, especially with Kyrie and Gordon coming back from injury,” he said.
Stevens said improving day-by-day will let the Celtics’ big expectations take care of themselves.
“The beautiful part of keeping a day-to-day mindset of trying to improve every day is that no matter what your expectations are — whether you are at the beginning or the building stage or you have a team like we do, that’s bringing a lot of guys back, that is trying to reach a next step, or you’re Golden State and you have won three of the last four championships — if you’re focused on the day and getting better that day, everything takes care of itself,” he said. “Our challenge is to be the best version of ourselves.”
While he won’t talk free agency with Kyrie, Stevens will talk “Uncle Drew” after seeing Irving’s movie with the C’s Summer League team.
“We rented out a movie theater for our summer league team and we all watched “Uncle Drew”, Stevens said. “I thought it was really good. I thought Kyrie did a great job. My kids love it. It’s fun to be that close to an actor.”