New Celtics coach gets to work, watches top pick in summer league
ORLANDO, Fla. -- The Houston Rockets and Boston Celtics tipped off Orlando Summer League play concerned about how major additions will fit into their success next year.
Prized free-agent Dwight Howard is heading to Houston and the Celtics hired former Butler coach Brad Stevens to replace Doc Rivers.
Rockets coach Kevin McHale said Sunday morning that the 27-year-old Howard should be a "seamless fit" with Houston.
"He can run the floor, block shots, he can finish and that’s all the stuff we want in our system," McHale said after watching his summer league team defeat the Philadelphia 76ers 88-80. "We’re looking forward to developing something special."
The 6-foot-11 Howard played his first eight NBA seasons with Orlando and last season with the Los Angeles Lakers.
Meanwhile, Stevens has noticed one immediate difference between the college game and the NBA.
"Summers are different," he said. "I’m here watching these games, hiring a staff, watching a lot of film. There’s a lot to do."
It’s been a whirlwind few days for Stevens since he was hired by the Celtics on July 4.
Boston President Danny Ainge, also at the Celtics-Orlando Magic game on Sunday morning, said the expectations for Stevens are realistic.
"First of all, all coaching openings except for Jason Kidd, are for teams not having success," Ainge said. "Organizations are impatient, fans are impatient, sports talk media is impatient. We live in a world of here and now and expectations are so high. We have fair and realistic expectations and we will manage them.
"Brad is humble, hard-working and about the process," Ainge said. "We’re not sitting over his shoulder. We know he’s going to make some mistakes. ... He’ll get better and better, learn the NBA game and be able to lead."
The first inkling Ainge had about Stevens came when he and Celtics owner Steven Pagliuca were watching the 2010 NCAA championship game between Duke and Butler.
Ainge turned to Pagliuca and said "That’s the best coach in college basketball."
"Yeah, Mike Krzyzewski," responded Pagliuca, a Duke graduate and avid Blue Devil supporter.
"No, the other guy," Ainge replied, half-jokingly as he referred to Stevens.
"I really believed he was a great coach," Ainge said. "After we hired him, I was amazed with how so many other people are impressed with him as well."
Stevens, 36, was Ainge’s first choice, and keeping as few people involved in the process kept the publicity of the pursuit to a minimum.
"Ownership knew I liked him and it was a long shot," Ainge said. "It was pretty much, Brad, [Stevens’ wife] Tracy and me. Tracy is a tough negotiator. She could easily be an agent or a team legal counsel."
Ainge said that Stevens’ loyalty to Butler played in the low-key pursuit.
"He was really yes-no-yes-no - he loves Butler and feels it’s his family," Ainge said. "Eventually the dream of being a NBA coach and coaching the Celtics was enticing to happen at this point. I had no idea until the very last day. He made a decision that he’d like to try it."
Stevens, working his way to the Amway Center practice court, saw the opportunity would be a good fit.
"I appreciated that the Celtics not only had a commitment to winning, but to the process as well," said Stevens, who signed a six-year contract.
On the court, several highly touted rookies made their NBA debuts.
Utah’s Trey Burke struggled with a bad shooting day, but Philadelphia’s Michael Carter-Williams, Orlando Victor Oladipo and Boston’s Kelly Olynyk posted impressive stat lines.
Carter-Williams, the former Syracuse guard, had 26 points, eight assists and seven rebounds in the 76ers’ 88-80 loss to the Houston Rockets. Oladipo, the second overall pick from Indiana, scored 14 of his 18 points in the first half in a 95-88 win over the Boston Celtics, who had a game-high 25 points from Olynyk, the former Gonzaga standout.
Burke, the 2013 AP player of the year from Michigan, was 1 for 12 from the field, but had five assists and seven boards as he ran the point for the Jazz as they outlasted the Miami Heat 69-59 in a defensive struggled.
"I wasn’t excited about the Sixers trading Jrue Holiday, but now that I saw the flashes [from Carter-Williams] I can understand why they did," said NBA-TV analyst Dennis Scott. "Oladipo’s a stud; I think he’s going to be phenomenal. And you have to give credit to Burke for grinding it out."
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