GRAY LINE: VOTE FOR BRAD

Don’t laugh too much, but I’m going to throw Brad Stevens’ name out there for the NBA Coach of the Year award.

While I know the Boston Celtics’ coach is not going to win it – Golden State’s Steve Kerr is the favourite as of right now – Stevens should definitely get some consideration from the eligible voters.

The former Butler University play-caller- who twice reached College basketball’s final four – did not come to Boston to lose, although he knew he would be in Beantown during a rebuild.

He accepted it would take time and if he did his homework before joining, Stevens would have known that GM Danny Ainge never stops tinkering with the roster.

The fact the Celtics are in the playoff mix at this stage of the season is down to Stevens and that says a lot considering he had no previous NBA experience and by his own admission, still has a lot to learn about the NBA game.

Stevens is not the finished article and we have no idea how he will do when the roster is eventually improved, but for now it’s a thumbs up from me.

Twenty-two players have played for the Celtics this season and if you include those who were traded or released without playing a single regular-season game, the total number of players who have been a Celtic is closer to forty.

Other coaches would have given up and been looking forward to the lottery or a nice pay-off after dismissal, but not this guy.

There is an old cliché about taking each game one at a time. That has never been more apt in Stevens’ case as until the trade deadline passed, he didn’t know which of his players would still be on the roster the following evening!

It’s a well-known fact that during the NBA season, there’s very little practice time due to the demanding schedule. Five of the current fifteen players on the squad did not begin the season in Boston and in between trying to win games, Stevens has had to find time to bring the new guys up to speed.

With the exception of Isaiah Thomas, who just slotted into his Mr ‘4th Quarter’ role from the start, the new additions needed time. Jae Crowder, Jonas Jerebko and Luigi Datome were all added into deals to just to make the numbers work, but each one of those three has since made themselves useful, especially Crowder.

Despite losing two former key pieces in Rajon Rondo and Jeff Green, the constant turnover in personnel, numerous injuries and no recognised stars on the roster, the playoffs are within touching distance.

And while you wouldn’t put any money on the Celtics getting out of the first round, I’d rather take the chance to give this young bunch some valuable playoff experience than head into a lottery that we would have less than a 1% chance of winning.

So, will the Celtics make it? The honest answer is I don’t know. The race is still too close to call.

One thing I do know is that having watched this ever-changing group of Celtics mature throughout the season, I know that they are going to fight the likes of Charlotte, Indiana and Miami right up to the final game of the season.

And if they make it, I’ll be checking to see how many ‘Coach of the Year’ votes Brad Stevens gets.

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