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Brad Stevens has interest in joining Team USA staff

Brad Stevens didn’t lobby to replace Mike Krzyzewski on Team USA, saying, “There are better candidates.”
Brad Stevens didn’t lobby to replace Mike Krzyzewski on Team USA, saying, “There are better candidates.”Adam Hunger/AP

MANCHESTER, N.H. — Although USA Basketball on Friday named San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich its head coach following the 2016 Summer Olympics, Celtics coach Brad Stevens said he's open to any opportunities with Team USA.

USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo named Popovich to succeed Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski, who will step down following the Rio Games. Stevens was considered a candidate to replace Krzyzewski, and perhaps a strong one had Popovich, 66, not to accepted.

Stevens reiterated he wasn't lobbying for the head coaching position, but being on the staff does interest him.

"When I was asked if I was interested in coaching it, it was kind of made out like I was really anxious to be [head coach]," he said. "As I said, there are better candidates than I; there are better candidates than I to be assistants. Whoever they decide, [Popovich] should be the most comfortable with because they made a home decision; I mean, everybody believes that."

If Popovich or Colangelo calls Stevens to discuss a spot on the Team USA staff, he will listen.

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"If they asked, sure," Stevens said. "But again, I want to make it really clear, I want him and I want them to ask who they want to ask because there are a lot of other good candidates."

Thomas returns

The Celtics wanted to give Isaiah Thomas extensive minutes in Friday night's exhibition finale against the 76ers after the guard missed two games with a bruised left shin. In 23 minutes, Thomas struggled from the field, going 3 for 17 with 7 points and six assists in the Celtics' 81-65 win.

Second-year pro James Young missed 11 of 12 shots and finished 9 for 32 from the field (7 of 20 from the 3-point line) in the preseason.

Meanwhile, the Celtics finished Friday with no health issues — all 16 players logged minutes but the starters, besides Marcus Smart, were limited to first-half duty. The club is scheduled to take the weekend off before returning to practice Monday.

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"We walk out of here healthy, so that's obviously goal No. 1, right?" Stevens said. "I thought we did a lot of good things, but I thought we also had moments where we played like it was the third preseason game of the week. But I do think I was encouraged again by the young guys."

Shining example

Coach Brett Brown is entering his third season attempting to build the 76ers from rubble and the process has been slow. He did say there are models his franchise could follow, including the Milwaukee Bucks and Celtics, each of whom surprisingly reached the playoffs last year after a lottery appearance the year before.

Brown said he was impressed with the Celtics' rebuilding plan.

"You've seen what they've done," he said. "I started looking at their depth chart and there's some talent there. You start looking at 1 through 10 and your first-round draft pick is probably coming off the bench.

"You can see the depth when you get Evan Turner and [Kelly] Olynyk, Thomas as your second group. So we are going slow. We hope that the fruits of our labor will [be] realized with the patience that we're showing."

Brown's patience was tested even further Friday when second-year forward Robert Covington sprained his right knee in the fourth quarter after falling awkwardly during a drive to the basket. A magnetic resonance imaging is scheduled for Saturday.

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Cuts are coming

The Celtics have to finalize their roster by Monday. Corey Walden is expected to be waived and join the D-League Maine Red Claws. Perry Jones is most likely to be the final roster cut; the Celtics have 16 guaranteed contracts and 15 roster slots.

Stevens may have hinted at his playing rotation by starting Marcus Smart, Avery Bradley, Jae Crowder, David Lee, and Tyler Zeller on Friday night, with Thomas, Turner, Olynyk, and Amir Johnson coming off the bench. Stevens has said he wants to use a 10-man rotation, meaning the final rotation slot could come down to Jared Sullinger or Jonas Jerebko.


Gary Washburn can be reached at gwashburn@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @GwashburnGlobe.