Notebook: Refreshed Celtics eager to start again

BOSTON -- The NBA is emerging from its brief summer hibernation and Boston Celtics veterans are starting to trickle back into town, where a handful of younger players have been working diligently for much of the offseason.

The Celtics had a dizzying day of activity Wednesday with three different community events as Isaiah Thomas handed out back-to-school backpacks in Roslindale; soon-to-be-inducted Hall of Famers Tommy Heinsohn and Jo Jo White threw out first pitches before a Red Sox-Yankees tilt at Fenway Park; and Brad Stevens joined former Celtics coach Doc Rivers for an ABCD fundraiser on the parquet at TD Garden.

Some leftover news and notes from those events:


Players and coaches tend to look refreshed this time of year and are often eager to get started on the new season. Thomas and Stevens certainly fit that description.

"I can’t wait, man. It’s an exciting time of the year," said Thomas. "I’m ready for the season to start. I’m ready for us to get together as a team and just bond, and just put it all out there on the court."

Acquired at February's trade deadline, Thomas helped spark Boston's second-half surge to the playoffs -- a stretch in which Boston went 24-12 over its final 36 regular-season games. His goals for the new season?

"Just to build on what we did last year," said Thomas. "For the most part, make the playoffs and then just go from there. We’ve got a really talented team. Especially in the East, we can make some noise. I feel like if it all comes together, we play for each other and like playing with each other, that’s gonna be the easy part."

The tough part lies with Stevens, who has to figure out how to mix and match all his players, especially adding additional depth this offseason. But the third-year coach believes that sustained continuity from last season will help.

"[Continuity] should be a benefit. Again, I think my phrase will be, 'Time will tell,'" said Stevens. "I mean, we’ll see. I think my curiosity lies in how we go to work, how we come together, how much we’re willing to sacrifice for one another and see how this thing plays itself out. But I think you’d rather have guys for a longer period than not and that continuity is a good thing. We have basically nine guys back from our roster that played quite a bit. That’s a good thing, too."

Stevens admitted that, with a deep frontcourt, the Celtics could benefit from playing with more traditional lineups. The conundrum there? Boston thrived in the second half of last season in large part because of small lineups that often featured the likes of Jonas Jerebko or Jae Crowder -- two offseason re-signings -- playing the power forward position. Stevens must determine how to pair his bigs after an offseason in which Amir Johnson and David Lee were Boston's big-name additions.

"Amir is a guy that’s proven over and over again that he impacts the team well on both ends of the floor. And, you know, David’s been the same way," said Stevens. "And David has had a couple of years where he’s obviously been an All-Star. He’s also had other years where he’s been a double-double guy. So I know they’re both excited to be here and we’re excited that they’re here."


By now everyone knows that Thomas desires to be a starter. He's asked about that often and he never shies away from the opportunity to reaffirm his desire to be on the floor at the start of games.

Asked Wednesday if he's warmed to the idea of being a Sixth Man after his impact in Boston last season, Thomas playfully shot back, "Hell no, I’m not warming up to that." He quickly added, "I’m a team player. At the end of the day, I’m going to do whatever it takes to win. I’m going to do whatever is best for the team. But like I keep saying -- or as you guys keep asking -- I do want to be a starter. I mean, who doesn’t? That’s one of my goals in my career -- to be a full-time starter and be one of the best little guys to ever play the game. That’s a goal of mine, but at the end of the day, I’m a great teammate and that’s not going to mess with anything."

Later in the day, Stevens was asked about Thomas' role for the upcoming season and if it might change.

"It’ll all figure itself out," said Stevens. "If it’s best for our team for Isaiah to start, then Isaiah will start. If it’s best for our team for Isaiah to come off the bench, then one thing that he’s proven is that he’s an awfully good player coming off the bench. Hey, I get it. We all want to be out there when the ball is tipped. There’s not a person playing that doesn’t. But there are a lot of players that are out there when the ball is tipped that aren’t as effective as the guys who come in for them. You can also be really impactful off the bench. We’ll see."


Celtics point guard Marcus Smart dislocated two fingers during a summer league game in Las Vegas in July, but Stevens said he's almost completely healed.

"He’s doing pretty much everything; he's cleared to do everything," said Stevens. "He’s still got that finger taped but he looks good and he’s feeling better."

Earlier this summer, Thomas underwent a small procedure to address a cyst that developed on his left shooting wrist and had some additional cleanup. He said he's been pain free for a couple of weeks now, though he's working on strengthening his wrist.

"It was caused by my previous [left wrist] surgery I had last summer [in Phoenix]," said Thomas. "I had a cyst growing and, also, when they went in there they found some other things they could fix up. They had a little bit of damage in there so it postponed my recovery probably 4-6 more weeks, which I was frustrated with. But now I’m back. I have no pain in it."

Celtics third-year big man Kelly Olynyk dinged up his knee during international play with Canada last month, but returned to game action this week.

"I was in touch with [Olynyk] right after he got hurt," said Stevens. "[Team strength coach] Bryan Doo was [with Olynyk in Puerto Rico], but obviously he’s better."


Leave it to Tommy Heinsohn to have some fun with his first-pitch opportunity at Fenway. Heinsohn dribbled towards the rim before lofting a 10-foot jump shot on Wednesday ...