It can be a challenge to come up with story ideas over the course of a long, winding NBA season. It sometimes feels like gathering acorns. Potential stories are stashed away, either to eventually be pursued further or to be dug up on a slow news day.
Well, the basketball world has stopped. So here are a few acorns from this season that had yet to be revealed:
▪ NBA head coaches excel at gushing about their next opponent, no matter how bad that opponent might be. But there are signs when the praise is genuine. For Celtics coach Brad Stevens, the revelation that he loves to watch a team on NBA League Pass is one.
These viewing sessions come in addition to Stevens’s regular and more calculated film study. The personal viewing sessions are some combination of leisure and homework.
“Usually when we get back from our games at home, when I’m winding down I’ll throw a game on before I go to sleep, and then I watch just like everybody else watches,” he said. “I watch one almost every night.”
Stevens declined to name his favorite teams to cue up, but said he has seen the Thunder more than most others. He is not officially on the clock during these screenings, but his mind is always racing.
“I’m looking at everything,” he said. “Who we might be interested in down the road, what the coaches are doing, how people are guarding different actions, how they’re rotating guys, who’s playing for them, former players we’ve had. All that stuff.”
He said he just watches on television and does not slouch over a laptop or tablet screen from close range. It seems like that would be bad for the eyes, he said.
“It’s already bad enough that I put it on when I get into bed,” he said. “I’m usually pretty good about turning it off.
"I’ve learned over time that staying up — I’m going to know what happens. I’ll just watch it tomorrow. I need to get some rest when I can.
"We all have to prioritize rest as much as possible, and coaches are no different. Usually once it hits midnight, I turn it off.”
▪ Before the Celtics were bringing celebrities such as Mark Wahlberg and LL Cool J into Zoom calls to speak to the players, some assistant coaches took their turns with the video conferencing platform. Jay Larranaga did a tutorial focused on physical conditioning in isolation, showing the team bodyweight and plyometric exercises, and hill workouts.
Jerome Allen’s session was focused on keeping players mentally sharp. With his children manning his laptop camera in his backyard, and without even using a ball, he went through the team’s entire offensive playbook. He would run plays and switch from position to position based on where the ball would typically be.
“I went live and full speed,” Allen said. “I tried to get the guys to think about visualization and angles and where everybody else was on the floor. It was kind of a refresher of our actions, just to kind of keep them engaged."
Allen said he stole the idea from former Lakers star Kobe Bryant and Saints quarterback Drew Brees. Allen said that Bryant, a fellow Philadelphia native, sometimes played entire 48-minute games by himself, on an otherwise empty court, without even using a ball.
“On both ends,” Allen said with a chuckle. “He’d come down and make some of the triangle calls and post himself at the elbow with his back to the basket and imagine a guy bodying him with the forearm. He’d fake-spin right and be looking to see if the help is coming. What was he going to do to engage the help defense?
"Then he’d go up and imagine shooting it, and then run back on defense and start a conversation, ‘I’ve got the ball. I’m here. One pass away. I got your help.’ He’d slide his feet as if playing defense against an imaginary player.”
More recently, Allen said, he saw video footage of Brees alone in an empty stadium, standing at the 1-yard line and barking through the Saints’ entire goal-line package by himself.
Kemba already knew plenty about Celtics stars such as Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, and Gordon Hayward, but some of the lesser-known players caught his eye last fall, too.
“He was like, ‘Yo, Brad Wanamaker is tough. He’s just here every day and so solid,’ ” Kedow said. “And he was like, ‘Yo, Robert Williams might be a better [Rockets center] Clint Capela.'
" ‘Grant Williams might talk a lot, but he’ll be 10-15 years in the NBA. Carsen [Edwards], I hate the way he wears his uniform, but dude is solid.’
" ‘I go to practice, and there are dudes busting my [butt].’ ”