PLYMOUTH — Brad Stevens is optimistic about his team entering what he hopes to be a bounce-back season. Yet, he had little to say Monday about that optimism — and definitely has had enough conversation about last season’s tumult.
The Celtics are less than a week away from a fresh start and their head coach appears enthusiastic about the possibilities of this refurbished squad.
“I think there’s a lot to be excited about, but we have a lot of work to do,” Stevens said after the Celtics’ annual Shamrock golf tournament at Old Sandwich Country Club. “I think we have a lot of guys that are ready to practice. That’s what the whole point of workouts at this time of the year are.
“There’s a good excitement. I think all 30 teams have that right now because nobody’s lost a game yet.”
The Celtics received good news when all four players who participated in the World Cup with Team USA returned without any lingering injuries. Swingman Jayson Tatum missed the final five games of the tournament with a sprained left ankle while Kemba Walker (neck) and Marcus Smart (left hand) each sat out games.
Walker has been a mainstay at Auerbach Center since returning from China, while Smart and Tatum have also been cleared to practice.
“One of the benefits of the guys playing overseas is they got a lot of [playing] time and conditioning,” Stevens said. “You’ve got to be mentally prepared for the games to be right around the corner and we’ll have a couple of warm-up games and practice games to keep our legs underneath us and then we go right into the lion’s den early.”
The Celtics begin their season Oct. 23 against the 76ers, their first chance to finally move forward after being soundly beaten by the Bucks in the second round of the Eastern Conference playoffs.
With Kyrie Irving, Al Horford, Marcus Morris, Terry Rozier, and Aron Baynes now gone, the club will spend the next few weeks trying to find its identity and create more cohesion than last year’s discombobulated group.
“We have so many new guys, it’s just a different scenario, different feel, different group altogether,” Stevens said. “There’s always going to be noise, no matter what the expectations are. The bottom line is there’s noise everywhere and that just increases year to year, especially with the amount of attention and amount of media and social media and amount of instant feedback.
“My care is we play with great effort and togetherness, that is it. That’s what we’re looking for. That’s what we want to see. We’ve got to play like a Boston team should.”
The emphasis has been on consistent effort and improved fortitude since free agency began and the roster was overhauled. It’s apparent that Stevens is not comfortable comparing last year’s team with this new club, although comparisons are inevitable.
“This team has done a good job of flipping the page, moving forward, and focusing on itself,” Stevens said. “I really like the guys that are in our gym right now.”
When asked about his disappointment about last season, Stevens said: “We didn’t play as well as we had hoped and I’ve said this many times, that starts with me. It’s my job to do a better job of getting ready and I think we’ll be better.”