LOS ANGELES — The trade deadline came and went without a move for the Celtics. Nothing. Just a couple of proposed deals that never came to fruition.
All was quiet at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel. The only drama occurred when Brandon Bass delayed his barber a few minutes to talk with the media about not being traded. While there may have been great desire among the fan base to pull off a trade, the Celtics didn’t have any disgruntled players looking to get out.
Bass, Kris Humphries, Jerryd Bayless, and Jeff Green all have expressed the desire to return, although their names involved in trades rumors that Rajon Rondo called “annoying.” Rondo is also embracing his new leadership role.
It’s not that these players are content with losing. The 19-37 record following Friday’s 101-92 loss to the Lakers is hardly a reason for pride but the players realize first-year coach Brad Stevens is building a winning culture.
When asked about the Celtics, Minnesota All-Star forward Kevin Love pointed to the effect Stevens is having on the perception of the organization. Stevens’s positive influence is apparent, even among outsiders.
The Celtics have a reputation of playing hard, hence this comment from Phoenix coach Jeff Hornacek before his Suns beat Boston Wednesday night.
“Well, I think they’re a typical Boston-type team, they’re going to play hard, they’re similar to us where they have a lot of young guys,” Hornacek said. “It’s going to be a tough battle for us. These guys are going to play hard. They are going to make things tough on us. We usually have the advantage, maybe with the effort level against teams, tonight will probably be an even game there because they do play hard.”
While Stevens has experienced growing pains, the Celtics have developed a rather surprising chemistry. Humphries and Gerald Wallace may have grumbled in the weeks after their acquisition from the Nets but they haven’t spewed any negativity into the locker room.
These guys enjoy playing for Stevens. They enjoy his humility and willingness to allow them to offer input.
Bass wasn’t so convinced about Stevens when the coach was hired in July. Bass was unsure about his role and future. Despite the losing and the possibility of joining a contending team at the deadline, Bass wanted to remain in Boston.
“You want to stay put. You don’t want to be floating around,” Bass said. “I’d been on enough teams, I think. I’ve been traded once. I feel like it’s time for me to stay put, if that’s how it’s supposed to play out for me to stay put. And then retire one day and to be able to come back as a Celtic years later like Paul Pierce. I really admired that. So hopefully I can stay here for a while.”
Stevens takes no credit for his effect on the team’s culture. But it’s becoming apparent around the league that team president of basketball operations Danny Ainge made a good hire and Stevens’s adjustment phase to the NBA is going smoothly.
“This is about trying to do right every single day as much as you can,” Stevens said. “Trying to get the most out of everybody in the organization, whether it’s a coach, an assistant coach, an administrator, a player, whatever the case may be, that’s our goal, that’s our job. And hopefully that is an environment that people want to be a part of.
“It’s not always the case, doesn’t mean you’re not going to have days where you have criticism. It doesn’t mean days where you are not down or don’t have a role that you want but I think that is a good thing moving forward that everybody likes the environment. It’s important to have a positive environment.”
The transition from Doc Rivers to Stevens was dramatic. They have totally different styles. At 37, Stevens has tried to be more of a peer to his players. He didn’t take the Rick Pitino or John Calipari mentality when making the switch to the NBA. He is not trying to reinvent the game and there is no hint of arrogance.
The most important relationship Stevens had to establish was with Rondo, and the two have bonded better than expected. Rondo is numb to the trade rumors and understands the business, having seen his close buddies Pierce and Garnett dealt to Brooklyn.
But he said he wants to be in Boston for another 10 years. He enjoys sharing ideas with Stevens and the potential of the relationship. That endorsement is critical.
“Obviously [we’re not happy] about our record but guys like playing for Brad,” Rondo said. “He’s a very positive coach. He’s encouraging and you want to play for a guy that’s encouraging you to do the things on the court that’s better for yourself and for the team. Any time you have a person in your corner with a positive outlook on things it’s a good thing, a good person to play for.”