All four Celtics made it through the first round of Team USA cuts, meaning they will continue fighting for a spot on the final roster. But in addition to representing their country, and getting some extra touches before the season unfolds, Boston’s players are also soaking up the benefits of training under Team USA head coach Gregg Popovich and assistant coach Steve Kerr.
“They all have their own style and coaching traits. It’s like different teachers have different ways of explaining and teaching,” Jaylen Brown said, per NBC Sports Boston. “But playing for Gregg Popovich, I’ll do that any day of the week.”
Popovich, a five-time champion, and Kerr, an eight-time champion between five player titles and three coaching titles, each bring different perspectives and valuable experiences to Team USA. Particularly for the younger Celtics, Brown, Jayson Tatum, and even Marcus Smart, who have primarily been coached by Brad Stevens’ staff, the variety in coaching this summer has been extremely beneficial.
“Two great coaches right there. I think their resumes speak volumes for themselves,” Smart said. “I’ve been playing in Boston for my whole career and playing for Brad. [Each coach has] different styles and different techniques so you get a little bit of all three. You can kind of vary and mix those in and learn new things from each and every last one of them.”
Though, the returning Celtics aren’t the only ones who have benefitted from Popovich and Kerr. Kemba Walker, one of Team USA’s more experienced players, has really enjoyed playing for Popovich, and has wanted to do so for years.
“It’s amazing. Growing up, you watch Coach Pop and you’ve seen him win championships and you see his interviews and stuff like that. This is an honor, to be able to play for him,” Walker said.
“I would have come [to Team USA] regardless, no question. But of course, I wanted to play for Pop,” Walker added. “Pop is a legendary coach. My ex-coach [in Charlotte, James] Borrego, he came through Popovich and I’ve heard so many great things about Pop from him. So yeah, this is an honor.”
Just as the players have raved about the coaching staff, the coaches have been pleased with the Celtics group as well.
“They’ve been great,” Kerr said. “Marcus Smart, the [first] two days was one of the best players on the court. Jaylen Brown is athletic and tough and strong. Then the skill of Kemba and Jayson is going to be really important for our team. All four guys have played well.”
When asked about the Brown-Tatum duo, Kerr also noted, “They’re on a hell of a path, and they’re only going to get better.”