Having a fully healthy team has Brad Stevens excited about training camp
PLYMOUTH — With just days to go before training camp begins for the biggest Celtics season in a decade, coach Brad Stevens has been watching his team come together at its Brighton practice facility — building chemistry, learning tendencies, and gaining cohesion. Most importantly, the entire crew is fully healthy.
Gordon Hayward and Kyrie Irving have been taking part in informal workouts leading up to the first official practice Tuesday, and Stevens, in his measured way, expressed excitement at the possibilities and potential of his group.
“As of last I’ve heard, we should have everybody full go,” Stevens said Wednesday during the Celtics’ annual golf tournament at Old Sandwich Golf Club. “Everybody that’s been here has been playing five-on-five and been looking good.
“The exciting part is that we should have a full group of guys healthy and ready to go. And the tough part is that we know we’ve got a lot to cover in a short amount of time.”
Hayward is returning from the devastating broken tibia and dislocated left ankle that he suffered six minutes into last season. He said last week he is “basically 100 percent.” Stevens agreed.
“He’s been really diligent all the way through his rehab and progressing each step,” Stevens said. “I watched him through the steps of working out to going to one-on-one, to two-on-two, to three-on-three, and he can play some of the open gyms the guys are having.
“Like anything, there’s always going to be a period of adjustment, but from my eye, and I think from everybody else that may have watched him work out, he looks like he’s looked before. That’s positive, I’d say.”
The coach said he will split camp into two segments: The first portion (Sept. 25-Oct. 6) will include the four preseason games, and the second (Oct. 7-15) will lead up to the Oct. 16 opener against the 76ers. Stevens said he doesn’t envision anyone “playing a ton” in the first preseason games (Sept. 28 and 30 vs. Charlotte) because they come up so quickly.
Stevens also said he doesn’t expect to be resting Irving or Hayward during the season unless instructed so by team trainers. There has been speculation that he would rest those two — along with 32-year-old veteran Al Horford — on the second night of back-to-backs to preserve their bodies for a potential long playoff run.
“Not my call at all,” Stevens said. “So the medical team comes and says this person can’t play in a back-to-back, then they don’t play in a back-to-back. If they can and it’s good for them, barring anything else unforeseen, then obviously they’ll play.
“We haven’t sat in front of it and said that’s the case with certain guys yet and I’m not sure I anticipate that with either of those guys. They’ve made great strides.”
Irving, who worked out with NBA standouts such as Kevin Durant last week in Miami, is back in Boston and engaged in the informal scrimmages. He is recovering from two left knee procedures earlier this year; the second, to eliminate an infection, caused him to miss the playoffs.
“He’s worked really hard,” Stevens said. “I think he’s really excited and it’s good to see that. I think both he and Gordon will appreciate all the little things and all the mundane things even more because Kyrie’s had the end of the season taken away from him twice in the last four years. And the one last year with us was such a shock.”
Asked whether Irving has regained his customary shifty and crafty moves, Stevens said, “He’s got them. He looks pretty good.”
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Stevens also spoke for the first time publicly about the Jabari Bird domestic violence case, reiterating a team statement that the NBA is handling the case and any potential fine or suspension.
Bird has pleaded not guilty to four charges stemming from a Sept. 7 incident with his girlfriend at his Brighton apartment. Bird is out on bail and taking a leave of absence from the team.
“As we stated in our statement, that investigation is being handled by the NBA and local authorities and we cooperate any which way that we can,” Stevens said. “The reason why the NBA is handling this is because of the domestic violence part of it and that’s part of the collectively bargained agreement in 2017.
“So it’s in their hands to investigate and we’ll go from there.”