INDIANAPOLIS — During his time with the Celtics, coach Brad Stevens has followed Butler University basketball closely, and he even caught a road game at Creighton during the All-Star break.
Bulldogs coach Chris Holtmann, who took over for Stevens successor Brandon Miller, has led the club to a potential NCAA Tournament berth after landing a third seed in the Big East Tournament.
“Like everyone else, I’ll be watching with a keen eye [Sunday] to see where the Bulldogs go,” Stevens said. “I can’t wait to see them back in that tournament. That will be a blast. [Holtmann] and the staff have done a great job, it’s so fun for me to watch.
“I watched them in person at Creighton and that was an absolute blast. I found myself like a fan, throwing my arms, yelling, pumping our fists; it was a little bit scary to be honest. It’s been a lot of fun.”
Stevens was asked what he missed about college coaching.
“For me, I really enjoyed the longer stints before the games,” he said. “So you had more time to prepare. What makes your whole experience go are the relationships, so anything I miss is all specific to Butler. This week [he misses], and [tournament selection] is a fun day for college coaches.
“But at the same time, there’s so many great opportunities here [NBA] every single night. The opportunity to compete against the best, to get back up off the mat and do it again night after night. If you act like you’re tired, you’re in trouble. It’s been a great challenge. It’s also fun because we’re progressing. When you’re running in mud, it’s not as fun, but when you’re making moves, you feel pretty good about it.”
Although Avery Bradley has returned to the lineup for three games, including Saturday night at Indiana, he said his sore left elbow is going to take a few weeks to heal. He said it swells up after every game and will require treatment for an indefinite period.
“It’s still pretty much the same,” said Bradley, who is 19 for 52 shooting since his return. “Still going to bother me for a little bit. Treatment every day, just trying to take care of it and make sure I keep the swelling down. You don’t know if I would even be playing if it was my shooting arm. It would be a lot different. I’m just happy it’s not.”
Bradley, who scored 16 points Saturday as the Celtics beat the Pacers, 93-89, said he did not want to miss any time during the Celtics’ quest for the postseason. The Celtics have won 9 of 12.
“Winning is the cure for everything,” he said. “Even if you’re not playing well and you don’t feel like the team played well that night, you’re winning the game, it still makes everything better.”
Not quite yet
There was speculation a month ago that Pacers All-Star swingman Paul George would make his season debut against the Celtics. He targeted this date to return from the ghastly broken right leg he suffered during training with USA Basketball in August.
George practiced Friday with the team but there is no scheduled date for his return, and the Pacers’ playoff run will have no bearing on whether he comes back.
“The notion that he would disrupt anything with us is pretty laughable,” Indiana coach Frank Vogel said.
“If he’s ready to go, he’s only going to help us and help us in a big way. He’s not playing until he’s ready. [Concern about disrupting chemistry] is just him being selfless.”
Vogel was complimentary of Stevens. The two formed a friendship while Stevens was at Butler.
“They’re playing great and when you look at their cumulative stats there’s about 36 guys on there,” Vogel said. “He has them playing at a high level with so much turnover, so many key guys lost, and still being able to win basketball games is a credit to him.”
Vogel touched on the brief and unsuccessful tenure of Evan Turner, who was supposed to add a versatile scorer to Indiana’s arsenal, but ended up playing few minutes during the postseason last year.
The club did not pick up his contract option, allowing him to sign a two-year deal with the Celtics.
“I think we tried the entire time to make him fit,” Vogel said. “To make him comfortable around his teammates, put him in the position to succeed. As I said all along, it was really less about him and more about the fit. If I needed a guy and I wanted to put the ball in his hands 30, 40 times, he would have been the guy. But that’s not what that team needed.”
“We needed somebody off the basketball more than anything, so it was one of those things that was about fit.”
Lose your appetite
Stevens dispelled the intimation by Turner that there was no food on the team flight to Indianapolis because the Celtics played so poorly in the first half of Friday’s 95-88 win over the Magic . “I was really was disappointed at how we finished the half, so I used a couple of adjectives I don’t normally use, but certainly never said anything about snacks or food on the plane because I like the snacks and food on the plane,” Stevens said . . . The Pacers were without Donald Sloan (turf toe) but brought back mammoth center Roy Hibbert, who sat out Wednesday’s win over the Bucks with a sore right elbow. In two previous games against the Celtics, Hibbert averaged 20.5 points, 11 rebounds, and 4.5 blocks. On Saturday, he had 5 points, 7 rebounds, and 1 block in 24 minutes . . . A night after scoring a season-high 30 points, Turner followed with 4 on 1-for-7 shooting with 7 rebounds and 7 assists.