Boston Celtics first-year coach Brad Stevens is set to endure his first trip through the trade deadline circus next week. Like his general philosophy with coaching, he's focused on what he can control and trying to block out any noise that can distract him from the task at hand.
"I've never lived [the trade deadline], so it’s hard for me to say," said Stevens. "Obviously, you control what you can control and you take it from there. I’m looking forward to the road trip, I think it will be a great challenge for us. Phoenix is one of the hotter teams in the league and playing great all year and so we’ll have our hands full right out of the gates. We’ll prepare for that as it comes. I’m not looking as much at the week as I am at the one game at a time, and really one day at a time throughout the rest of the year, whether it’s the trade deadline or not."
Pressed on the topic, Stevens was asked (1) whether the team would look similar when it returned to Boston later this month and (2) whether it should look the same after the deadline.
"Those are hard questions to answer. I don’t know either way," said Stevens. "At the end of the day, that’s why I’m the coach and somebody else is doing that. And that’s probably good. But I think what I’m going to do is focus on the guys we have and, if that changes, then I’ll focus on whoever else is here."
The Celtics have already made two in-season trades that forced Stevens to juggle rotations while the Celtics went 2-15 in January. While trade rumors haven't been too much of a distraction so far this season, Stevens knows they can be this time of year.
"I’ve tried not to get caught up in all the talk as well, because it’s distracting for everybody to hear those rumors," said Stevens. "I think one of the things we have to do, again, is understand what’s substantial and what’s not. And realize that probably 90 percent of what’s out there, maybe more, is not. So we just have to focus on what we can control and move forward. I don’t know if there will be, should be, whatever the case may be, I do know that we have to get better as a team to make the progress that I think we need to make."
There have been times in recent seasons when Celtics players have appeared on edge with the approaching deadline. Rumors swirled and players started worrying about their futures. Maybe the fact that Boston was a contender then and in transition now makes it easier for players to stomach, but most players were more excited about a couple days of downtime at the break than worrying about whether they'll still be in green next week.
"You just enjoy the break. If you get that call, you get that call," said veteran Kris Humphries. "Otherwise, we’ll see you Wednesday in Phoenix."
Many in the Celtics' locker room brushed aside the trade chatter.
"Wrong person. I’m not the GM," said Gerald Wallace.
Echoed Jared Sullinger: "That’s a question for Danny Ainge. ... You know what, second-year [player], name wasn’t involved really last year, so you’re asking the wrong person."
Rajon Rondo seems to find himself in the trade whispers each February (even though the only time the Celtics have really come close to dealing him was for Chris Paul coming out of the lockout). Now the captain of the team, his place seems more secure, but Rondo said he'll still avoid any chatter.
"I don't watch TV," Rondo said of avoiding rumors this time of year. "It’s been like that my last eight years as a Celtic."
"It’s only two guys maybe in the rumors," said Rondo, likely referencing recent chatter about the future of Brandon Bass and Jeff Green. "There are guys that aren’t in rumors, sometimes their names get called -- it's just part of the league. We have a pretty young team, but for the most part, guys don’t talk about the trades or anything that can happen because you never know, but it’s part of the game."