INDIANAPOLIS — When Brad Stevens peered out of his hotel room window here, the view was bubbling with nostalgia. Stevens looked in one direction and saw the offices at Eli Lilly, the pharmaceutical company where he worked before becoming a basketball coach. He looked in another and saw Lucas Oil Stadium, where he guided Butler to the 2010 NCAA national championship game.
Indianapolis always will be home for Stevens, who grew up in nearby Zionsville, attended DePauw University, and then coached at Butler. His visits with the Celtics offer a rare if brief chance to reconnect with old friends. And on Tuesday night, Stevens was able to see a former player who is fighting for his life.
Andrew Smith, a center on both of Butler’s Final Four teams, is battling non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. He was diagnosed in January 2014. The cancer returned last spring, and Smith, 25, is scheduled to undergo a bone marrow transplant on Thursday. On Tuesday night, Stevens and Celtics video coordinator Alex Barlow — who also played at Butler — had dinner with Smith.
“I’ve seen Andrew go through a lot of really tough stuff over the last two years, and that son of a gun always responds,” Stevens said. “And he’s as tough as they come, and I have no doubt that he’ll respond again.
“His spirits are really good for all things considered, when you’re dealing with some of the things he’s dealing with, how he’s feeling, some of the effects that the chemo has had on his body, and then ultimately the fact that he’s having a bone marrow transplant tomorrow. He was great spirits-wise, a lot better than I think 99 percent of the people I know would be.”
Barlow has kept in contact with Smith, and he said he was as energetic and talkative on Tuesday as he had seen him since his diagnosis.
“I think after the transplant it’s going to be pretty tough on him, so obviously getting to see him, and Coach getting to see him, is good for us and good for him,” Barlow said. “It’s just very unfortunate that somebody like him who’s so nice has had to go through something so terrible.”
Stevens was struck by Smith’s interest in the progress of the Celtics. He wanted to know how the team was playing, how everyone was coming together.
“Those are small problems, aren’t they, in the big picture?” Stevens said.
Rookie R.J. Hunter is from here, so Wednesday’s game against the Pacers was filled with plenty of faces from home. His father, Ron, flew in from Atlanta, where he coaches Georgia State, and Hunter said many other friends and former coaches were in attendance, too.
With 9:20 left in the second quarter, Hunter entered the game for his pro debut. He made his first shot, a deep jumper off a pass from Isaiah Thomas, and missed his only other attempt, a 3-pointer.
“There’s no energy like being home,” Hunter said, “so [for] that first shot to go in here is great. But again, it’s still tough with a loss.”
Stevens said before the game that Hunter had earned the opportunity to play.
“He can make shots,” Stevens said. “He’s learned how to defend the way we’re trying to do it, and he’s really put a lot of work into it. So I feel like he’s a guy that could certainly help us if called upon.”
The Celtics were undermanned with starting guard Marcus Smart sidelined because of a sprained toe. By midway through the second quarter, all 12 available players had entered the game.
Rookie guard Terry Rozier played six minutes in the first half and missed all four of his field goal attempts, though he did gather five rebounds.
The Celtics on Tuesday sent second-year wing James Young and rookie forward Jordan Mickey to the Maine Red Claws of the D-League. But Stevens said on Wednesday that it would be a brief stay for both. The Red Claws are in the midst of training camp, so it offered an opportunity for both players to go through two practice sessions in one day.
“We just thought rather than doing a 15-minute shootaround and a 15-20-minute shooting session before the game that it would be a lot more beneficial to get three to four hours of hard, good work, and a good practice,” Stevens said. “So that was our thought process.”
Stevens said both players would be back with the Celtics for Thursday’s practice.
Adam Himmelsbach can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.