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dan shaughnessy

Getting an early take on the Celtics from Brad Stevens, and other thoughts

Brad Stevens is in his first year as president of basketball operations after eight seasons as coach.Auerbach Center

Picked-up pieces while trying to watch the Celtics without thinking about how much better the NBA was when Bird & Co. roamed the parquet …

▪ The 2021-22 Celtics have already received a full season’s worth of local scorn for hideous losses, blown leads, and the appearance of internal strife. They seemed to respond positively after veteran Marcus Smart called them out earlier in the week, but they still haven’t won a home game yet.

Brad Stevens coached these guys for eight years and now serves as president of basketball operations (the new Danny Ainge). I caught up with Stevens Friday morning after the Celtics’ impressive blowout of the Heat in Miami Thursday.

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“I try to look at things objectively,” said the ever-measured hoop boss. “I think we had a couple of games early where we weren’t at our peak, but I don’t chalk it up to intent. The double overtime in New York took a lot out of us. As did the double overtime in Washington.

“But there’s a standard we have to play to every night, and we understand that. It’s just part of this league and how hard it is to win in this league. The reality is that if you go on a bad five-minute stretch because you took your foot off the gas for whatever reason, you’re probably going to get beat.

“Everybody wants to play better at home. I don’t think there’s any question about that. I’m encouraged about how we’ve galvanized ourselves on the road in both road back-to-backs.”

Is the early regional scorn deserved?

“You’re a better judge of that than I am,” he said.

OK, Brad.

In a word: “Yes.”

But we can all agree that the season is still young.

“I just hope that over time I don’t get too low when we’ve lost a few in a row,” Stevens continued. “And I’m not too high from last night [Miami]. We just have to keep getting better. I do see progress, which is really encouraging. I think we can take more steps.

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“I think the biggest motivator the last couple of games is that we’re thirsty to win. The Chicago game [blown 19-point lead at home] was a tough pill to swallow. But the last two games we’ve gotten to what our chance of being good is — and that’s being a great defensive team.

“That’s where we can separate ourselves from others. If we can become a great defensive team and that becomes our identity, we’ll be tough to beat.”

The last-place, 4-5 Celtics, after playing in Dallas Saturday night, will bring their 0-3 Garden record home to play the Raptors (Wednesday) and world champion Bucks (Friday).

▪ We will be telling Jerry Remy stories for the rest of our days. In November of 1980, I was 27, living in Virginia, covering the Orioles for the Washington Star. I flew into Boston for a memorial Mass in my apple-town home of Groton and evidently my pickup ride canceled (probably Dupont).

Too cheap to rent a car, I put my thumb out, just like in college. A half-hour into my hitchhiking journey, while standing on a ramp connecting the Mass. Pike to Route 128, Red Sox second baseman Jerry Remy pulled over and offered me a ride north. He recognized me from clubhouse encounters when the Orioles played the Sox. Remy drove me to Route 2 West, where he dropped me off and went about his day.

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Years later, growing old as “media” guys covering the Sox, Jerry and I shared a distrust of new things, particularly new foods. When we accompanied the Sox to Japan in the spring of 2008, Remy and I hoarded candy bars on the Sox’ massive charter aircraft before deplaning in Tokyo. We were not sure when we’d next get to eat food we recognized.

Fortunately, there was a Trader Vic’s in our Americanized Tokyo hotel, and I saw Jerry in the tiki lounge almost every night. We were safe at home. General Tso’s Chicken is the same everywhere in the world.

▪ Quiz: Name the only two individuals who played in a World Series and a Final Four (answer below).

▪ The Red Sox open their 2022 season on Thursday, March 31, at home against the AL East champion Rays, which means I’m penciling in Chris Sale to make his first start Monday, April 4, against the Orioles.

The Sox love to make things easy for their $30 million starter, so they can have him skip the Rays and go straight to another dominating performance against the 100-loss O’s. Maybe he’ll even have an immaculate inning!

▪ Inglewood (Calif.) High School football coach Mil’Von James, a 36-year-old adult who played defensive back at UNLV, should be fired after allowing his team to beat Morningside, 106-0, Oct. 29.

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James refused to allow a running clock when it was first suggested at the end of one quarter with Inglewood leading, 59-0 (the running clock went into effect before halftime). He allowed his starting quarterback (a UCLA commit) to throw 13 touchdown passes. After Inglewood’s final TD made it 104-0, James went for a 2-point conversion at the end of the game.

Inglewood’s principal issued a written apology. Not good enough. James should be fired. End of story.

No individual charged with teaching/coaching high school students gets to keep a job after such a disgraceful crime on sportsmanship. In 2016, James was fired from another high school coaching position when it was learned he used ineligible players.

▪ There were at least 10 pitchers used in all six World Series games. The champion Braves trotted out Dylan Lee (first major league start) and Tucker Davidson (five career starts) to start Games 4 and 5. Atlanta’s Max Fried went six innings in the clincher — today’s equivalent of Jack Morris’s 10-inning shutout in Game 7 in 1991 and Sandy Koufax blanking the Twins in Game 7 on two days’ rest in 1965.

▪ Tim Hyers’s decision to walk away from the Red Sox is worth a deeper dive. The hitting coach was highly respected and effective. It will be interesting to see where he lands.

▪ Meanwhile, we can only hope J.D. Martinez opts out of his ($19.375 million) contract so that the Sox will have room (and cash; it’s always about money now that the Sox are Tampa by the Charles) for Kyle Schwarber.

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▪ Xander Bogaerts has an opt-out at the end of next season. The (suddenly all about being thrifty) Red Sox should find a way to lock him up for his career. No reason Bogey shouldn’t be a Sox lifer.

Xander Bogaerts has batted .290 and made three All-Star teams in nine years with the Red Sox.Jim Davis/Globe Staff

▪ MassLive’s Chris Cotillo notes that Christian Vázquez narrowly missed a plate appearance incentive that could cost him $1 million if the Sox renew his option for 2022. Vázquez needed 502 plate appearances to qualify for $8 million instead of $7 million if the club decides to keep him in 2022. He wound up with 498.

▪ College football coaches are the biggest boors in American sports. Florida’s Dan Mullen canceled all media access for the rest of the week because he didn’t like the tone of questions Monday after a 34-7 beatdown against Georgia. Mullen’s annual salary at the state school is $7,570,000.

▪ USA Today has the Patriots up to No. 9 in its power rankings.

▪ Can’t wait to vote for Buster Posey for the Hall of Fame in five years.

Giants catcher Buster Posey, the 2012 NL MVP, announced his retirement this week after 12 seasons in San Francisco.Harry How/Getty

▪ Wideout/slot receiver Zach Mitchell, a Weymouth native who played at Catholic Memorial, is lighting it up for Bridgton Academy in Maine. Bridgton coach Rick Marcella, a veteran of 41 seasons, says Mitchell is his most polished recruit, no small remark given that Bridgton gave the NFL Jermaine Wiggins and Victor Cruz.

▪ Must-read: “If These Walls Could Talk — Stories from the Boston Celtics Sideline, Locker Room, and Press Box,” by Cedric Maxwell with Mike Isenberg.

▪ The Tradition returns to TD Garden Dec. 8 at 6 p.m. In this 20th celebration of Boston sports, The Sports Museum is honoring David Ortiz, Kevin McHale, Angela Ruggiero, Taylor Twellman, Ben Coates, and Mike Milbury.

As always, the night begins with a reception on the arena floor, with terrific ambience, plus food and cocktails. The program ceremony follows. The event supports The Sports Museum’s community work with at-risk children. For tickets or more information, visit www.sportsmuseum.org or e-mail Maria Kangas at mkangas@sportsmuseum.org.

▪ Quiz answer: Tim Stoddard (1974 North Carolina State, 1979 Orioles) and Kenny Lofton (1988 Arizona, 1995 Indians). Stoddard and Lofton went to the same high school, Washington High School in East Chicago, Ind.


Dan Shaughnessy is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at daniel.shaughnessy@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @dan_shaughnessy.