When the Celtics completed their exit interviews and left the team’s practice facility Friday, there was an unspoken reality that some of them would not be back. Guard Evan Turner will now become an unrestricted free agent, and he is one of the players whose future in Boston seems unclear.
But before Turner wheeled some of his belongings to his car, he met with coach Brad Stevens, who indicated he hoped Turner would re-sign with the Celtics.
Turner’s future will be one of the important stories of this summer for the Celtics. And during an interview Monday, Stevens explained his appreciation for Turner, who finished fifth in the voting for the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year.
“I love Evan Turner,” Stevens said. “I think he’s a great teammate. I think he’s a hard worker. I think he loves basketball. I don’t think you can overvalue that.
“He loves basketball, and he never once — we didn’t have two conversations about starting or not starting. It was never about him. It was always about how to help us put our best foot forward, and he knew his role in helping us do that.”
Stevens weighed in on a few other players as well.
■ Amir Johnson and Jonas Jerebko.
Johnson and Jerebko are set to enter the second years of their two-year, nonguaranteed deals, with Johnson slated to earn $12 million and Jerebko $5 million. Unlike Turner, the futures of Johnson and Jerebko are in the Celtics’ hands for now.
“I thought they both really helped us,” Stevens said. “In the playoffs, they were playing huge, critical roles. Obviously, Amir started the whole year, Jonas’s [playing time] kind of went up and down, and that was somewhat due to the depth. But I think Jonas played really well in that Atlanta series in a lot of ways, and Amir gives us a presence at the rim that I thought was really good.”
With Kelly Olynyk still limited by shoulder pain and Avery Bradley sidelined with a strained hamstring, Jerebko received more playing time in the postseason. After averaging 4.4 points and 3.7 rebounds during the regular season, he was up to 9.2 and 6.8 in the playoffs.
“I don’t think he did anything outside of what he does well,” Stevens said. “I think we all kind of knew that’s what he does. Obviously him doing it on that stage was great.
“He’s a very confident guy, and his game translates in a lot of ways to the current NBA, with his ability to shoot the ball and his ability to guard a couple of positions.”
■ Avery Bradley.
There were some questions about whether Bradley could have returned to action if the Celtics reached the conference semifinals against the Cavaliers, but Stevens said that was unlikely.
“I just think those hamstrings, you have to be very careful in coming back at the right time,” he said. “So he’s going to do what he needs to do from a rehab standpoint, and he needs to take the appropriate amount of time off and not rush back too quickly.”
Stevens said Bradley’s injury is not believed to be a long-term issue, though.
■ Isaiah Thomas.
The point guard had a spectacular season, as he averaged 22.2 points, 6.3 assists, and 3.0 rebounds per game and was named an All-Star for the first time. On Friday, Thomas said he plans to transform his body during the offseason so he is better able to withstand the pounding that comes from being a fearless 5-foot-9-inch point guard.
Stevens is excited about Thomas’s future, because he is an elite player who also knows there is room for growth.
“Anytime you’re in the position he’s in, where you’re more of a hunted guy and you’re more of a targeted guy, you just have to raise your level,” Stevens said. “You have to raise everything you do.
“He’s just got to continue to be great at the things he can control, and that includes now continuing to be great and working off the court, and his eating and his sleep and all the things that allow you to perform at the highest level, because he’s got great concentration and focus as a worker.
“And so this is the point in time that he’ll be targeted enough that he has to be even better at all the little tiny things that you can control. Not that he’s not good, but I just think everything matters when you’re an elite player.”
■ Terry Rozier, R.J. Hunter, and Jordan Mickey.
It was a mercurial year for the rookies. Rozier and Hunter stepped into more prominent roles late in the season because of injuries to Jae Crowder and Bradley.
“[Rozier] has got to continue to work to improve his shot and do it at the pace of an NBA defense,” said Stevens, “and then I think anytime you’re talking about point guards, you’re talking about finishing.
“And you talk about different, creative finishes around the rim, and he has all the explosiveness in the world and he’s got good touch and so I think he’ll be able to grow in those areas pretty quickly.
“I think R.J.’s biggest thing as he moves forward is continue to soar with those strengths of how he feels the game, and he’s got such a great feel for the game. His ability to pass and make the right read are at a great level.
“If he continues to work on being able to take advantage of his scoring opportunities and just continuing to get a little bit stronger, I think he’ll continue to move in the right direction.”
Mickey, meanwhile, showed flashes of dominance in the D-League but was stuck in a crowded frontcourt in Boston.
“I think Jordan Mickey’s got a chance to be a very good player,” Stevens said. “I think the biggest thing in this league is how many positions can you guard and do you have a strength offensively that’s applicable?
“His ability to roll to the rim and finish lobs and those types of things is good, and I think he’ll continue to improve as a stretch player shooting the ball on long twos and threes. Defensively, he’s got a chance to be very good.”