Celtics coach Brad Stevens came under some criticism after the Celtics’ Game 1 loss to the Heat as the offense went stagnant in the fourth quarter, with ball movement and actual plays giving way to Kemba Walker and Jayson Tatum dribbling down the shot clock and playing isolation ball.
Appearing on The Greg Hill Show ahead of Thursday night’s Game 2, RADIO.COM Insider Brian Scalabrine said that while he didn’t like the way the Celtics played in Game 1, he wants to see how Stevens adjusts in Game 2 and beyond before ripping him too much.
“Listen, I don’t like the way the Celtics played at all in Game 1,” Scalabrine said. “It was kind of embarrassing. But that’s assuming that in Game 2 they’re going to do the same thing. Can we at least reserve judgment until tonight and see if the Celtics move the ball?
“Now I will say this: If you want to talk about the Celtics playing all four games, getting swept by the Miami Heat and not moving the ball and not using Jaylen Brown the way that they should and wasting great performances by Marcus Smart, then we can have that conversation. But one game? One game? That’s jumping to conclusions way too quickly.”
Scalabrine found himself debating one of the harshest Stevens critics there is in Jermaine Wiggins, who is adamant that Stevens is not the right coach to lead the Celtics to a title.
“Absolutely not,” Scalabrine said when asked if he agreed with Wiggins. “I know you guys are thinking, ‘Oh, that’s just Scal watching the games through his green lenses,’ but Brad puts guys in the right positions to succeed. He develops players. He moves the ball. He’s got Gordon Hayward out right now.
“I don’t understand why people would ever point the finger at the coach after one game. What did you think, the Toronto series? A lot of people picked Toronto to beat the Celtics. They were one of the top seeds in the East. They were one of the hottest teams in the East. And the Celtics had them on the ropes.”
Wiggins said he thinks Stevens is too soft on his players when they make poor decisions like Walker and Tatum did down the stretch Tuesday night, but Scalabrine said that you shouldn’t assume that he isn’t critical behind closed doors just because he doesn’t do it publicly.
“You’re thinking that he’s not doing that behind closed doors,” Scalabrine said. “You want him to call out his players to the public? You want him to do it in the media sessions? That’s what you think a good coach would do? Who does that right now in the NBA? Name one coach that calls out their own players. … No coach is doing that nowadays.”
Wiggins also said he believes the Celtics may have hit the ceiling of what they can accomplish with Stevens, another assertion Scalabrine refuted.
“So you think we’ve hit our ceiling with a 23- and 22-year-old superstar? That’s the ceiling?”
When Wiggins responded that Tatum may choose to leave and team up with another star player or two elsewhere at some point, Scalabrine said he’s confident Tatum isn’t going anywhere, and that the Celtics already have their own group of stars here.
“We have that. We have a dynamic duo and a big three,” Scalabrine said. “Jayson Tatum is going to sign a super-max. He just got Third Team All-NBA. He’s going to sign a $180 million extension this offseason. Jayson Tatum’s not leaving. Jaylen Brown’s not leaving. Kemba Walker is up there in age, but if they can maintain his body -- that has nothing to do with Brad Stevens. That has to do with the medical and all that.
“If you think there’s a better basketball coach out there, I’d love for you to tell me the guy. Let’s just say that today Brad Stevens was not the Celtics coach. There would be 29 other teams that would be doing whatever they can to get him.”