Disappointing Celtics scoff at criticism of Stevens

The Celtics have struggled this season, though it's not the fault of Brad Stevens, players say.

With the Boston Celtics lugging an 0-4 record since the All-Star break into a game against the visiting Washington Wizards on Friday night at TD Garden, some have wondered if Brad Stevens ay be part of the problem.

Not surprisingly, some Celtics players came to the defense of their head coach.

“That’s bull(crap]). That’s what I say to that,” Marcus Smart laughed, shaking his head, according to Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald. “This is on us. We’ve got to play better.”

Smart, who has taken to criticizing himself and his teammates for the Celtics’ struggles, has never pointed the finger at Stevens.

“This man has been coaching in this league for six years,” Smart said. “I’ve been here five years, and each year he continues to get better. So anybody who says Brad can’t coach or can’t coach us needs to shut up. He’s a great coach.

“Just like anybody else, he’s human and there’s some things he has to go through just like us. You know, this is a work on progress. Everybody’s used to a certain thing, and when change comes, being able to accept it and adapt to it is always hard. And we’ve just got to adapt. It’s plain and simple.”

Smart understands how difficult the task of coaching the Celtics can be.

“He’s got a talented team, and he’s trying to manage everybody’s minutes and make everybody happy,” he said. “It’s not easy.”

Teammate Marcus Morris also stood up for Stevens.

“Anyone who puts this on Brad doesn’t know the game,” Morris said. “But this is tough for a coach. I think this is tough for any coach, man. Like, when you’ve got eight guys as part of your rotation that are kind of similar, it’s a tough situation.

“As players, though, we’ve just got to be better. I have to be better myself. I know that. I haven’t been playing as well as I played early on in the season. So that’s on me, and it’s on all of us to be better and do what we’re supposed to do.”

Smart admitted Stevens, not overly demonstrative on the sideline during games, gets on his players away from the spotlight of the cameras and probing microphones.

“Yeah, he does,” Smart said. “He does. He gets on us out there, as well, but Brad, you know, he’s been doing this for a long time and we’re professionals. He allows us to work at it and try to fix it, but he knows what he wants and he lets us know that.”

Morris concurred.

“He’s telling us what to do,” he said. “But that other stuff, that’s not in his DNA. Brad’s his own man.”

Smart said Stevens’ unwillingness to hang his players out to dry publicly is respected and appreciated behind closed doors, even though the Celtics — who stood 37-25, fifth in the Eastern Conference going into play Friday night — have been one of the NBA’s bigger disappointments this season.

“You definitely want to play for a guy like that,” Smart, emphasizing the second word in that sentence, said. “But we’ve got to do our part. We’re getting better. But we’re the ones who are out there playing. We’re the ones who have to turn this around.”

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