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Notes: Popovich praises Stevens

BOSTON -- Asked for his thoughts on Boston Celtics second-year coach Brad Stevens before Sunday's game, San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich dubbed him a "great coach" but politely declined to elaborate.

"C'mon," Popovich said. "We'll be here all day."

In the aftermath of the Spurs' 111-89 triumph at TD Garden, Popovich took some time to shower Stevens with praise.

"Coaches always talk to each other, but he doesn’t need much from me," the 65-year-old Popovich said. "He was a hell of a coach before he got here and he’ll be an even better coach as time goes on. He’s a special guy, that’s why Danny Ainge went and got him."

Stevens talked Saturday about how he texted Popovich before the season and asked to pick his brain a bit. Asked about that chat, Popovich quipped, "He didn't find much."

Popovich did suggest that fans be patient as the Celtics navigate the transition process in the early stages of Stevens' NBA career.

"It’s a maturation process for the Celtics," he said. "Basically a new system that Brad’s putting in and they’re starting to figure it out more and more all the time. But the good thing is, while they’re figuring things out, getting used to each other in a system, they’re bringing their energy and competitiveness every night."

Stevens clearly values the relationship he's formed with Popovich.

"I’ve gotten to know him; he’s been very gracious to me," Stevens said. "I met with him both of our games [last season], after both of our games and before. Met with him a little bit prior to our coaches’ meeting [this year] and I just texted him and said, ‘Hey, can I pick your brain for a while?’ He’s very amiable to that. Then we text here and there. The only other thing I know is that we’re both from Indiana, so sometimes we talk about family and Indiana half the time, then we get back to basketball. But he’s been great to me. I really admire him."

When asked if Popovich ever offers the famous one-word responses he often gives to reporters, Stevens said, "No, I think he’s made that part of his schtick. When you’re that good, that long, you can do whatever you want. That’s why I’m sitting here rambling."

Some leftover news and notes from Sunday's game:

Smart's status uncertain: Celtics rookie guard Marcus Smart responded well to Saturday's practice session, but not enough to inject himself back into game action on Sunday. Might he travel with the team to Atlanta for Tuesday's game? "The only way we’ll take him with us is if we expect him to play," Stevens said. "So that will be a decision that’s made [Monday] morning." Smart is working his way back from a left ankle injury that sidelined him for much of November. He pulled himself from practice after trying to return last week, but was able to go through Saturday's light session in its entirety.

Rondo ready for back-to-back: Rajon Rondo is scheduled to play in his first back-to-back since tearing his ACL when the Celtics visit Atlanta on Tuesday, then return home to host the Pistons on Wednesday. "I just want to get a win; I don’t care about back-to-back," Rondo said. "My body feels fine. I’m not logging the minutes I used to play back in the day. My knees are responding well; I’m getting treatment. My knees are staying strong, so I’m just looking forward to trying to get a win, regardless of the back-to-back."