Each day brings a new NBA milestone for rookie Celtics coach Brad Stevens.
Friday will mark his first game of a back-to-back set, as the Celtics face the Philadelphia 76ers in a preseason game in Newark, Del., before turning around to play the New York Knicks Saturday at Verizon Wireless Center in Manchester, N.H.
The Celtics will have shooting guard Jordan Crawford, Stevens said Thursday at the team’s practice facility in Waltham before departing for Newark. Crawford missed Wednesday’s preseason game against the Knicks because of a death in the family.
But it’s expected that the veterans will play limited minutes, if at all. Veteran forward Gerald Wallace played limited minutes (16) Wednesday.
“Two things about Gerald: No. 1, he’s played in the league a long time,” Stevens said of Wallace, who’s in his 13th NBA season. “No. 2, he plays hard, and I don’t just mean kind of hard, he plays hard. You want to make sure he’s available when the games start to count.”
Phil Pressey shined in his NBA debut against the Knicks, notching a team-high 13 points, a game-high seven assists, and nary a turnover in a game-high 28 minutes.
And the undrafted free agent should receive some extensive playing time through the weekend, too.
Stevens continued to praise Pressey’s performance against the Knicks, adding that the 5-foot-11-inch point guard showcased a nice competitive streak as he helped lead a fourth-quarter comeback that fell just short.
“When you’re in coaching, when you’re sitting in this seat, you want guys who are going to go out there and have that kind of fire, and that’s a really good thing to have,” Stevens said. “For a little guy with a contagious attitude, it’s even better.”
Celtics guard Avery Bradley, who said he has known Pressey since their AAU days, said he wasn’t surprised at all by the former Missouri standout’s performance.
“He’s always been somebody that was confident,” Bradley said.
For Pressey to play so well is encouraging for the Celtics considering he is their only healthy true point guard while Rajon Rondo (knee) is sidelined.
All for one
After going through the film from Wednesday’s game, Stevens said what stood out most is that even though he’s mixing lineups and roles remain undefined, the team has played together.
“We really cheer for one another,” he said. “We really pull for one another. We really share the ball. We’re doing all the team stuff, which is really good because that’s how we’re made up — we’ve got to be a great team.”
The Celtics were again efficient sharing the ball, tallying 28 assists on 40 made field goals. And forward Brandon Bass, who is sometimes called “No Pass Bass” because (you guessed it) he isn’t known to pass much, racked up a career-high five assists.
There were four instances during Wednesday’s game when the Celtics’ bench gave Vitor Faverani a standing ovation: after each of his three powerful slam dunks, and after a deep step-back 3-pointer in the first half.
Though still raw, the 25-year-old Brazilian rookie center displayed both physicality and fearlessness against the Knicks as he scored 11 points and grabbed six rebounds in 20 minutes.
“Vitor is a good player,” Stevens said Thursday. “He’s got good feel. You can run a lot of stuff for him; he’s a better shooter than he’s shooting it right now. I think he’s got a pretty good ceiling and he is the guy on our roster that is a true center, per se. He’s a guy that has to play, I think as we move forward.”
Stevens added of Faverani, “He is getting better every single day. Did I think he’d be able to do this on Day 1 in Newport? No. So that’s good, because we’re only eight or nine days away from that. He’s getting more comfortable. He’s still got a little bit of a language barrier. But he runs what we want to run out of the timeouts, he doesn’t have any problem translating anything we’re trying to do on the court.”
In light of that language barrier, don’t expect too many eloquent Faverani quotes early on. But the center did respond to a question about his dunks and the reaction they brought.
“I’m very, very happy, because the dunks can help my teammates, I can show the coach I can play in the NBA,” he said. “I’m very happy.”
The Celtics will look to improve on their rebounding performance against the Knicks. They did win the battle of the glass, 36-34, Wednesday against New York, but were outrebounded by 20 in their preseason opener against Toronto.
Part of the turnaround was an emphasis by the guards of pursuing rebounds while the Celtics’ post players blocked out the big men.
“The other day we just turned and hoped it bounced to us,” Stevens said. “It’s funny how that works. It usually doesn’t bounce to you when you do that. We needed to do a better job of finding bodies. We did that, but we still have a long way to go.”