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A six-game Celtics road trip offers rookie JD Davison insight into how to lead like Marcus Smart

JD Davison is using his attendance on the Celtics' six-game road trip to get an up-close-and-personal view of how point guard Marcus Smart operates.Maddie Meyer/Getty

PORTLAND, Ore. — Celtics rookie JD Davison knows that to thrive in the NBA he will need to become a more vocal point guard. It’s not in the soft-spoken Alabama native’s nature, but he has tried to absorb some lessons while accompanying the Celtics on this six-game road trip.

“I was always a quiet kid,” Davison said. “I think being around [Marcus] Smart, Malcolm [Brogdon], Jayson [Tatum], all these guys, seeing them on the court being leaders and talking to guys, I think I’ve grown a lot in that area. Every time I come back here I always talk to these guys about the little things to work on.”

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As a two-way contract player, Davison has spent the majority of the season with the Celtics’ G League affiliate in Maine. The 2022 second-round pick has had a productive year, averaging 12.5 points, 8.6 assists, and 4.1 rebounds while shooting 51.7 percent from the field.

He has enjoyed living in Portland and has embraced the city’s bustling food scene, but acknowledged that he spends most nights there working out in the gym. The G League game experiences have been valuable, but getting this up-close view of the defending Eastern Conference champions has been helpful, too.

Davison said he pays extra attention to the way Smart conducts the offense and serves as the backbone of the defense.

“I’m always watching him and talking to him about everything, about being that leader on both sides of the court and off the court,” Davison said. “He has such an ability to know plays ahead of time. He always knows what’s coming, and when he’s on the bench he’ll tell the rest of us exactly what’s coming.”

A new approach from coach

The Celtics entered Friday night’s game against the Trail Blazers just 6-5 since the All-Star break. But Brogdon said he’s noticed a shift in coach Joe Mazzulla’s approach in recent days.

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“Joe’s been more firm,” Brogdon said. “He’s been more demanding and holding us more accountable, which is exactly what we need. Whether we’re losing or winning I think these last 20 games after All-Star, we need Joe to be more firm with us. And he’s been that, so I think it’s going to help us in the long run.”

Brogdon said Mazzulla has been pointing out more mistakes during film sessions and has been more focused on details as the Celtics prepare for opponents.

Stoudamire’s spot will go unfilled

The Celtics do not intend to hire an assistant coach this season to replace Damon Stoudamire, who on Monday was named Georgia Tech’s head coach. Assistant coach Ben Sullivan, the only remaining bench coach from Ime Udoka’s tenure, said the Celtics will miss Stoudamire’s guidance and experience, but added that the others are prepared to take on more responsibilities in his absence.

“Coaching staffs are built similar to a team nowadays where we have multiple coaches,” Sullivan said. “So, just like if a player goes down somebody has to step in and do a role, the coaching staff is very similar in its structure. If you lose somebody, somebody else steps in and everyone’s got to do a little more. We just kind of attack it with that mentality.”

Tatum keeping tabs on Shrewsberry’s Penn State

Former Celtics assistant coach Micah Shrewsberry guided No. 10-seeded Penn State to an upset win over No. 7 Texas A&M in an NCAA tournament first-round game Thursday. The Nittany Lions will face second-seeded Texas on Saturday.

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“That was a big win for them yesterday,” Tatum said. “I’m extremely happy for him.”

Shrewsberry was one of former Celtics coach Brad Stevens’s top assistants from 2013-19. He spent two seasons as an assistant at Purdue before being hired at Penn State in 2021.


Adam Himmelsbach can be reached at adam.himmelsbach@globe.com. Follow him @adamhimmelsbach.