WALTHAM, Mass. -- Challenged by veteran Gerald Wallace after Sunday's loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves, the Boston Celtics responded Tuesday with what coach Brad Stevens said was maybe the team's best practice of the season.
The Celtics endured what players termed a "tough" 90-minute session at the team's training facility in advance of Wednesday's preseason finale against the Brooklyn Nets. Stevens seemed pleased with the way his team responded after Wallace questioned the team's overall effort level in Montreal.
"One of the things I appreciate is we all discuss that in the locker room," Stevens said when asked about Wallace's comments and similar ones from Jeff Green. "Those guys have been in the league, and whatever those guys see, I’m comfortable with them saying that. I think the biggest key is to make sure we’re all together and moving forward. And today’s practice was going to be our first challenge in that. I thought it was, if not our best practice, definitely in our top 2 or 3."
Wallace went so far as to say the regular season started Tuesday for these young Celtics.
"Our preseason is over... Our season started today," said Wallace. "Everything from now on counts for us, even [Wednesday] night, so we’ve got to come out and try to get a win and start off on a good note."
Pressed on why he felt that way, Wallace added, "We’ve got to gear up. We’ve let go of the preseason games... we’ve got to start building our mindset, going into the regular season. I think just the point of everybody throwing preseason around as an opportunity to get to know each other is one of the main reasons why we’re so lackadaisical in the games. We’ve got to get that out. Preseason is done for us. This is the start of our season right here and we’ve got to come out and compete like we want to win every game."
Wallace expects more effort from the Celtics on Wednesday after a 1-6 start to the preseason.
"At the end of the day, when [Boston players] keep looking up the scoreboard and we’re getting our [butts] kicked every night, some response has got to come," said Wallace. "The effort, it’s something that everyone can control. Everyone can look at themselves in the mirror and do something about it. It doesn’t take talent or skills to just bring effort, to just come out every night and compete and just give the will to win. It’s not that hard."
A handful of quick hits from practice:
* HAPPY BIRTHDAY!: Stevens celebrated his 37th birthday Tuesday. Rookies (and Jared Sullinger) were herded together before practice to serenade the coach. His review? "It wasn’t the best I’ve ever heard," quipped Stevens.
* LINEUP CHATTER: Stevens said he's still debating how the starting lineup will loook for Wednesday's preseason finale, but said he'd likely treat at least the first half like a dress rehearsal for the regular season. With Phil Pressey available to resume backup point guard duties, it seems likely that the Celtics would re-pair Avery Bradley and Jordan Crawford together in the starting backcourt. But Stevens also said we'd see more of the Green/Wallace combination that worked well on Sunday. "You’ll see that [Wednesday] night," said Stevens. "I haven’t decided exactly how we’re going to start the game, but I would assume you’ll see that very early."
* WALLACE OUTSPOKEN ON RULES, TOO: Delay of game calls -- a point of emphasis for the NBA this preseason -- have ruffled players who have been whistled for simply touching the ball as it goes through the cylinder. Asked about the increased attention paid to the penalty this year, Wallace playfully responded, "I ain’t got no comment. I don’t know what that’s about." He then offered, "I can see [why referees call it] at some point, when guys take the ball and then throw it to the opposite corner or throw it away from guys. But sometimes it’s accidental. I think it should be a judgment call for the referees. It’s not every time the ball touches your hand or you touch the ball."
* FILM REVIEW LED TO TOUGH PRACTICE: Said Stevens of ramping up the practice difficulty on Tuesday, "I've had times where I’ve watched the film and I’ve said, ‘We were a little bit better than I thought’ [and] I’ve had times when I’ve watched the film and said, ‘We were a little bit worse than I thought,’" he said. "It would have been the latter [Sunday] night, so today it needed to be good."