BOSTON -- Boston Celtics coach Brad Stevens spent much of the postseason gushing about LeBron James and repeatedly called him the best player in basketball. After helping the Cleveland Cavaliers complete a four-game sweep of the Celtics on Sunday at TD Garden, James' parting gift was some high praise of his own for Boston's 38-year-old coach.
"I highly respect their coaching staff and especially their head coach," James said. "A very well-coached team, he put those guys out there every night and put them in position to win the game and I think Brad Stevens is a very good young coach in our league."
Stevens and James shared a brief moment on the court after Sunday's game. Stevens has maintained that, you can debate the MVP for the 2014-15 season, but he believes that James is the best player in the game. James twice said that Boston is well-coached, including during an on-court postgame interview earlier in the series.
Stevens got additional praise inside his own locker room, where 14-year veteran Gerald Wallace credited the coach with helping Boston advance as far as it did.
"Things have improved so much and I think that one thing that you've got to do is give credit to Brad," Wallace said. "What he's done for this team, for these players, with all the trades going on, with all the rumors going on and floating around, he maintained and kept everybody together, right up through the trade deadline. And then once the trade deadline hit, it eased guys and comforted them a little bit more. We shot off from there. So you've got to give him a lot of credit for what he was able to do to keep the team together."
Stevens was asked if he thought he got the most out of his players in getting them to surge to the postseason and battle the Cavaliers tough in the opening round.
"I don’t think I’ve ever felt that about any team I’ve ever been around," Stevens said. "That’s the problem with coaching. We haven’t played a perfect game yet. We were 40-42 and lost four straight in the playoffs. So, no, I don’t. But I didn’t feel that way both times [Butler] went to the Final Four, either. So I think that’s just the way I’m wired, I guess."
Celtics go 13 deep in season finale
Wallace made his postseason debut Sunday, playing a short first-half burst, as Stevens utilized all 13 players on his roster in the team's season finale.
"I think the one thing that helps a lot of players is that he believes in everybody," Wallace said. "He looks to play everybody, which is sometimes a bad thing, but it’s his personality, the way he runs the team. Everybody believes that, once he puts you in the game, he believes in you. You’re required to make shots and I think that’s confidence. Once they see the coach is behind them, that he believes them and trusts them and appreciates them, then you kinda want to fight for him."
Nored to Northern Kentucky
Ronald Nored, who has worked as a skill development assistant with the Celtics the past two seasons, has been hired as an assistant at Northern Kentucky, sources told ESPN.com's Jeff Goodman.
Nored spent most of his first season with the Maine Red Claws, but was a valued behind-the-bench assistant this season who worked extensively with rookie James Young. Nored played point guard under Stevens at Butler University during its national title runs.
Sullinger: Only a pain in Cavs backside
Listed as probable after landing hard on his tailbone in Game 3, Celtics big man Jared Sullinger might have been Boston's best player in Sunday's Game 4 while putting up 21 points and 11 rebounds over 28 minutes.
Not too shabby for a guy who wasn't expected to return from a foot fracture this season and who was still shaking rust from an extended absence entering this series.
Sullinger downplayed his performance while noting, "It's not about individuals. We are going home, so we could care less how we played at the end of the game. The fact of the matter is, we didn’t get any wins and it was a good way to, I guess, end the season but at the same time our main focus and objective was to get a win tonight and we failed."
In four playoff games, Sullinger averaged 12.3 points and 7 rebounds over 20 minutes per game. He shot 55.3 percent from the floor for the series.
More from the King
• James might have fawned over Stevens, but he was more tight-lipped in his praise of Crowder. "He tries to work hard and put his body on me, try to help their team win, that’s all," James said of Crowder's defense after being moved to a starting role for Game 4.
• More James on playing the Celtics: "It was a great first test for our team. We’re a young team, we have some vets but we’re a young team together. The Celtics gave us the test that we needed -- some things that we haven’t seen in the regular season, and it will prepare us for the second round, which will be much tougher, we know that."