WALTHAM — It’s the first NBA game of any sort for the league’s youngest head coach — who, by the way, was last found coaching at a small private university in Indianapolis.
Has Brad Stevens, formerly of Butler, even picked out his suit yet for Monday’s preseason tilt at TD Garden between his Celtics and Toronto?
“I don’t know if I have,” Stevens said after practice Sunday. “I hope there’s one ironed.”
Stevens, who turns 37 this month, hasn’t been to the Garden much and said he might leave a tad early to allow for traffic or an errant wrong turn along the way.
But Stevens said he doesn’t have any grand goals for his youthful squad that is still learning a new system. It’s baby steps at this point.
“First of all, I’d like to see us play hard,” he said. “I’d like to see us play together. I’d like to see us play as good on each possession as we can be.”
At this point, also, Stevens said he’s not as focused on the opponent as he would be during the regular season. “This is much more about us,” he said.
The Celtics will be tinkering with lineups all throughout the preseason, he said, so the starting lineup in Monday’s game might not be the same Wednesday when the Celtics face the Knicks in Providence.
“The one thing I’ll probably try to do is put some guys together that we think may fit together better,” he said. “Whether that means they end up starting or they end up coming off the bench, I think that’s to be determined.”
One reason the Celtics will be trying new lineup combinations is that whatever combinations they had from a season ago would be drastically different now because Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce are gone — not to mention Rajon Rondo is still sidelined as he recovers from knee surgery.
But for the Celtics as a whole, the game will act as a much-needed measuring stick, forward Jared Sullinger said.
“First game, then hopefully we’ll figure out who does what, because we all know we run the same plays and everybody sees it,” Sullinger said.
“So maybe it’ll be a little bit different, plays come at us and then we’ll see how we defend it from that way. It’s going to help the whole team out [Monday].”
It has been a while — 251 days, to be exact — since Sullinger appeared in an NBA game of any kind. His rookie season was cut short by back surgery and he hasn’t played since Jan. 30, but he’s expected to play Monday.
“No nerves,” Sullinger said. “I’m happy to be out there and finally get to bang against somebody else.”
Stevens said there won’t be any limitations on Sullinger heading into the game, but the coach added that he probably won’t give any players heavy minutes regardless.
The only limitation for Sullinger at this point anyway is conditioning. He’s listed at 260 pounds on the roster, but appears to be at least 15 pounds heavier.
“I gotta get in better shape,” Sullinger said. “Being six, seven months off, and just coming right back in and trying to play with these guys that have been working out all summer and played the whole NBA season last year — I’m just a tier under everybody right now as far as conditioning.”
Avery Bradley has said one of his goals at the point guard spot, where he’s filling in for Rondo at the moment, is to find a balance between running the offense while not tiring himself out on the defensive end, where he’s rather aggressive.
“The good news is, you don’t have to do both those things at the same time,” Stevens said. “Here’s what I’m trying my best to not ask him to be: I’m not trying to ask him to be somebody else.
“So, everybody has got this vision of what a pure point guard looks like. There’s lot of good point guards in this league that are not pure point guards. So, how do we help him soar with his strengths?”
Said Bradley: “I’m playing point guard, I’m just not trying to do too much. I’m not Rondo. Rondo’s one of a kind. I’m going to go out there and play the way I play. Make everything simple and go from there.”
Bradley also feels like he’s ready to step into a leadership role that he’ll be expected to play more of this season.
“Practice, game, I’m always going to go hard,” he said. “I’m going to try to be that example for the younger guys and for some of my teammates, if they’re tired, I want us to play for each other every day so we can be the best team we can be.”