Kyrie Irving tried to explain what separates Boston Celtics head coach Brad Stevens during an appearance on JJ Redick’s podcast Friday. “What is it that makes him so great?” asked Redick, the Philadelphia 76ers guard. “Because everybody for a couple of years it was like, oh, Brad runs great ATOs — after timeout plays. Like, he’s got great ATOs, great set pieces. Is it in-game stuff, is it discipline, what is it?” “He brings the ultimate unwavering confidence, yet so chill, but assertive, demanding, but he does it in the just most unique way,” Irving replied. “And it’s like almost bringing college to the NBA. I feel like we’re a very professional team, but the way we run things and the way we demand excellence out of each other is something like being on a college team. Just our film study, our preparation, our walkthroughs, our shootarounds. “He has adjusted to the NBA life but yet he still remains and has the high-character integrity of being that up-and-coming college coach that he was. And he was great in college, and then made the transition into the league. He didn’t necessarily have the best of teams, but he demanded excellence out of them, and he was always unwavering, he was always chill. And he demands it out of you. I keep saying demands, but… You want to play for him, you want to do it.”
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JJ Redick followed up by asking Irving if he had any comparisons for Stevens. “No. No,” Kyrie Irving said. “Anybody, no. He’s Brad Stevens. And when you’re doing that, that means you’ve done something special. And he has yet to be on the plateau of a championship winner but he’s definitely on his way.”
Irving has been complimentary of Stevens and he has emphasized how much trust he has in his system. Krzyzewski said that’s evident just from watching Irving and seeing his interactions with his new coach. He said it is clear Stevens is allowing Irving to play with freedom and confidence, and that the two appear to be “a perfect match.” “I see it in their eyes and I see it in their actions,” Krzyzewski said. “Also, the fact that Brad is allowing Kyrie to lead in real time. That’s the best thing that can happen for a coach, where you have somebody on the court who’s leading while the game is going on. You’re not waiting for a huddle or whatever. That’s happening already, and that’s only going to grow. It’s a tremendous talent for a coach to have for a team, and a lot of people don’t have it. I’m telling you, real-time leadership while the game is going on, and I see it. It’s really neat to watch. I love watching how this is growing for them.”
The relationship between Irving and coach Brad Stevens is building in late-game situations, but Irving said Saturday it’s pretty much a teacher-student relationship. “There’s open dialogue but we prepare for [late in games],” Irving said. “He understands the talent that I have at that point, especially in the fourth quarter. But I also understand his brilliant mind, so when we’re preparing for walkthroughs or simulating situations then it’s kind of easy to go off one another. I’m able to see the reads and what’s going to happen and he makes the play calls. We’re just continuously building that trust for one another, so it’s pretty easy.”
Irving has long lauded Stevens’s tactical decisions, and said the dialogue is essentially one-sided. “Ain’t too much trading [ideas]; he’s the man, so for me I just try to soak up as much knowledge as possible,” Irving said. “Just being in the passenger’s seat, it’s like having a driving-school teacher. He’s driving you the whole time and he’s able to put you in the driving seat sometimes and you’re able to see the road. When you’re able to bounce ideas and have that type of connection, and it’s still developing, it’s pretty awesome. He does most of the teaching; I’m just there listening, just constantly taking as much knowledge as I can.”
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January 16, 2018 | 9:59 pm EST Update
After the Mavericks’ shootaround at Pepsi Center on Tuesday, Dennis Smith Jr. clearly laid out his thoughts on the Verizon Slam Dunk event that will be on Saturday night, Feb. 17, in Los Angeles. “That’s something I’d like to do,” the 20-year-old said. “If I’m given the opportunity, I’m definitely willing to do it. That’s the event that I watched a lot growing up, and it’s probably the most exciting event of the All-Star weekend, except the actual game.”
If the league sticks with four dunkers, that means that a lot of quality rim-benders will be left out. “I don’t know when it happens,” Smith said, adding that he has not heard anything yet about the possibility of being in the event. “But it feels like I should be given the opportunity. It’s not my decision, though.”
Allan Horton: Bjelica postgame on his altercation with Afflalo… “I was just trying to protect myself & thank god I reacted that way [moving back to avoid the punch]. He was wild, I don’t know what’s wrong with that guy but I was just trying to protect myself.”
LeBron James reclaimed his kingdom in China from Stephen Curry — arguably the most popular current NBA star in China — in terms of jersey sales, according to the latest NBA China jersey and merchandise sales for the 2017-18 season.
Kobe Bryant, who retired at the end of the 2015-16 season, finally dropped from the top ranks of jersey sales in China. Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers were No. 1 on jersey and team merchandise lists at the beginning of 2017 and fell only to No. 2 by the end of last season.
January 16, 2018 | 9:14 pm EST Update
The reigning slam dunk champion won’t be back in time to defend his crown but would like to see Jazz rookie Donovan Mitchell participate in Los Angeles just like the rest of the world. “Definitely. Just based off the highlights that I’ve seen and just watching his game. I like his game,” Glenn Robinson III said. “I know a lot of people do and a lot of fans is excited and that’s the most important part. So I think that he definitely is going to be on that list to be in it.”