Brad Stevens’s day started off with angst. As he entered Boston Children’s Hospital to help usher the opening of the Fazzalari Sky Bridge, he watched on his phone as star forward Jayson Tatum was being helped off the floor in Shanghai after spraining his left ankle for Team USA.
A few minutes later, he received a relieving text from Tatum telling the coach the injury wasn’t severe.
Several hours later, as Stevens teamed with former Celtics and current Clippers coach Doc Rivers for the ABCD Hoop Dreams charity event at Auerbach Center, he joked and smiled, at ease with Tatum’s status and rooting on his six players playing in the World Cup.
Four Celtics are on Team USA — Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart, and Kemba Walker – while big men Vincent Poirier (France) and Daniel Theis (Germany) are also playing.
Stevens said he has no issue with nearly half of his team playing high-level basketball so close to training camp, despite the risk of injury.
“I’m loving getting up in the morning and basketball is on from 5:30 to 10:30 every [morning], it’s pretty sweet,” he said. “To me, there’s risk in every workout, every five-on-five game, walking down the stairs. I’m not even worried one iota about [injuries]. Basketball injuries can happen in a lot of different ways. There is no better preparation than these guys getting a chance to play right now. Every game that’s close, there’s going to be a tightness like you’re on the road, like it’s going to really hard.
“And that’s the beautiful part about what they’re doing. I can’t think of a better way for those guys to prepare and gel together and bring back what they learned here.”
Stevens said Tuesday evening that Tatum had a “moderate” ankle sprain and he will get a precautionary X-ray Wednesday morning. Team USA will play Japan, expected to be its easiest opponent of the opening round, on Thursday, and perhaps Tatum would rest.
Stevens said he’s leaving the handling of the injury to Team USA and head coach Gregg Popovich. Tatum was injured after making a pass to Khris Middleton in the final moments of USA’s 93-92 overtime win over Turkey.
“It’s really hard to win and when you play on the international stage against teams who have played together for so long; what I see is an increase in physicality from the NBA game to the FIBA game,” Stevens said. “It’s been a great thing to watch. I’ve seen great growth in that team over the last couple of weeks.”
Stevens said he won’t adjust the Celtics’ training camp — which begins Oct. 1 — to give the six players a break, but he will allow for rest.
“This is a good time for our other guys [not in the World Cup],” he said. “Because when our guys get back from China, they’re going to need a little bit of time. You just need to take a deep breath and get readjusted to your clock.”