BOSTON -- Boston's November schedule doesn't afford many breaks in the action (the Celtics play 19 games over the first 31 days of the 2013-14 season), but first-year coach Brad Stevens gave his players Thursday off and tried his best to enjoy the Thanksgiving holiday.
"Nice to spend one day with family," said Stevens. "It was great."
That said, you get the feeling that it was Cavaliers game film on a loop on the Stevens' living room TV rather than the Macy's Day parade or the three-game slate of NFL football. Stevens admitted he couldn't fully detach from hoops.
"No, just get up and work in the morning. Try to finish as much as you can throughout the day, so that we were ready for shootaround today," he said. "The next most important thing is the next practice, or the next meeting, or the next shootaround. I tried to get as much done as quickly as possible. You’re still working like a normal in-between games."
A handful of quick hits before Friday's game:
OLYNYK IMPROVING SLOWLY: Celtics rookie big man Kelly Olynyk said the sprained right ankle that has kept him off the court the past three games is improving, but admitted he hasn't been able to do any work on the basketball court yet. Olynyk didn't have a timetable for his return. Asked about being forced to be a spectator, Olynyk offered, "It sucks. Simple as that. Every player wants to play."
STEVENS' SCOUTING REPORT: Stevens' take on the struggling Cavaliers: "First of all, they are extremely talented in the backcourt. Everybody knows about [Kyrie] Irving, everybody knows about [Dion] Waiters. Everybody knows what kind of a year Jarrett Jack had last year [in Golden State]. You can go on down the line. Then when you add a guy like [Andrew] Bynum, who really has the ability to score over both shoulders on the blocks, with the athletes that they have to rebound the ball, it’s a really talented basketball team."
SPEAKING OF IRVING: Memphis' Mike Conley hurt Boston with dribble penetration. So how do the Celtics contain Irving? "That’s a great question. If you have any suggestions, I’d like to know them," quipped Stevens. "You can’t keep him out of the paint with one, usually. Which is a problem. Especially when they go to their smaller lineup with [Earl] Clark at the 4, and they shoot it so well. When they put Irving, Waiters, Clark and Jack out there, that poses a lot of problems at handling the penetration because of the way they shoot it. Even when they have their bigs in, it poses a lot of problems because of the way they rebound it. It’s an issue. You’d love to be able to guard dribble penetration 1-on-1, the fact of the matter is, against the best in this league, it’s hard to do."
DRIBBLE PENETRATION, PART II: Celtics big man Jared Sullinger put a lot of the blame on himself for Boston allowing easy buckets off dribble penetration in Wednesday's loss to Memphis, but Stevens said it wasn't one individual. "I didn’t think it was on Jared only," said Stevens. "I thought there was a play or two where he could have been a lot better. But there were a number of guys, and that has to be airtight with guys like Conley, and guys like Irving, guys like that. And we’re all talking about it like we can just chose to make it happen without the other guy trying. Bottom line is those guys are hard to stop. And that’s why you can’t dig a hole in other areas, while those guys get a little run going, because eventually, hopefully they come back to the pack. Then you’re still in it with a chance."