NEW ORLEANS — Now that the Celtics have steadied themselves with a three-game winning streak to pull within a half-game of the second-place Heat and Raptors in the Eastern Conference, there is a chance that Boston’s coaching staff could be tabbed for All-Star Weekend.
The honor usually goes to the team that holds the best record two weeks before the All-Star Game. The Bucks have steamrolled the rest of the conference and entered Saturday night with an 8½-game lead. But a coaching staff cannot be selected in consecutive years, and Milwaukee held the top spot last season, so this squad will be coached by the second-place team.
“I hope we get our guys there,” said Celtics point guard Kemba Walker, who will be a starter. “It’d be nice. It’s always great to have guys in the organization be a part of special moments like that, so I hope we get him there.”
Celtics coach Brad Stevens’s staff received the honor in 2017. And one of the group’s most memorable moments of the weekend had nothing to do with the game itself. Stevens was excited about the opportunity but also well aware that he would not actually be doing much coaching.
“You’re around them for like five minutes that weekend,” he said, smiling. “You have a practice that’s more of a show, then before the game in the locker room, and then during the game you’re just trying to keep minutes as equal as possible. That’s about it.”
Still, Stevens wanted to leave an imprint somehow, and he wanted to show the All-Stars how much he appreciated their paths.
So he asked Celtics video coordinator Matt Reynolds to dig through old footage of each player and create a highlight reel that showed clips of the stars before they truly became stars, along with some more contemporary moments. Stevens would show it to them in the locker room in place of a pregame speech, and he just hoped they’d enjoy it.
Reynolds started by combing YouTube in search of high school clips of each player, and he found that it was pretty easy to collect video of game-winning shots by these players, because NBA All-Stars generally hit a few game-winning shots as high school students.
When there was no readily available high school film, they improvised. They found old interviews with Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo, who played professionally in Greece as a teenager. They found middle-school highlights of then-Celtics star Isaiah Thomas, and checked to make sure he wouldn’t mind being shown as a pint-sized 12-year-old.
Then Reynolds added some college and pro clips, and when he was done he and Stevens did a full edit together before sending the mashup to Celtics video producer Steve Gadsden, who adds the splash and sizzle to videos shown at TD Garden. He made this All-Star reel a bit cooler.
Reynolds was excited about the idea, but when they gathered in the locker room and he saw players such as LeBron James and Kyrie Irving sitting there, he became a bit nervous. What if they didn’t like it? What if they wanted to just focus on the game?
Then the tape rolled, and there were howls and smiles everywhere.
“The players really appreciated it,” Celtics assistant coach Jay Larranaga said. “LeBron spoke up right away and said, ‘That’s the coolest thing anyone’s ever done in all my years of being an All-Star.’ ”
Reynolds attended Syracuse, and earlier in the day he met All-Star and Orange great Carmelo Anthony, and the two bonded a bit over campus memories. After James praised Reynolds for the video, Anthony yelled out, “Tell them where you’re from!”
So Reynolds told people he went so Syracuse and some players sort of rolled their eyes at Anthony. Everyone was having a good time.
“I think guys loved seeing those clips,” said Walker, who was playing in his first All-Star Game then. “Everybody really appreciated it. It was just cool to see yourself and everybody else in high school so long ago. It was dope.”
The Celtics still have some ground to make up in the standings to become All-Star coaches once again. Reynolds said that if they do get the call for Chicago, he’ll be prepared with his video equipment.
“I’d love to do something like that again,” he said. “It was really cool, and I think it really shows the thought Coach Stevens puts into the game.”
The Celtics’ coaching staff has changed since then. Staffers such as Scott Morrison, Kara Lawson, and Joe Mazzulla were not with the team then, so this would be their first time on an All-Star bench.
Most of the coaches said if they don’t make it, they wouldn’t mind being able to have a few extra days to spend with their families and recharge for the regular season’s stretch run. But spending time around the best basketball players in the world can be pretty cool, too.
“Sometimes you hear things people say about different players,” assistant coach Jamie Young said, “and then you get to be around them and just see them in a different light and it’s like, they’re really good guys.”
Adam Himmelsbach can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.