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January 2, 2018

Brad Stevens

New York, New York

Q. Former Celtics legend Kevin Garnett often cites a preseason trip to Rome as the moment the title-winning 2008 team truly connected. Obviously, we know how that ended. How much do you relish an opportunity for the team to spend time in London together, and what do you think it can do for such a young group of guys?
BRAD STEVENS: Well, I think that's a good point. You know, it's one of the reasons why we actually -- we very rarely in the last couple of years have left our practice facility to do anything in the preseason. But we went away to a college about an hour and a half away to spend time together, eat meals together, do things together at the start of training camp, with a condensed training camp this year, with only three weeks to get ready for our first game, and knowing all the while that we have this trip ahead of us to do the same thing.

I think it's really important. It's important for us from a practice standpoint. It's important for us from a spending-time-together standpoint. And we've got to balance well the preparation and time spent together and the opportunity to see the sights for a day or two. I think that's something that I really want to give our guys a chance to do.

Q. You mentioned you want the guys to take in some of the sights in London. How different is the prep for a road trip like this to one of the other ones you would do during the regular season in terms of different time zones, different climate, different fan base, different arena to what most of the guys have played in before?
BRAD STEVENS: Well, these guys are so used to playing in big arenas and special venues that we don't give a second thought to that. I think it's more the opportunity we do get to practice at least once or twice there, and we get to work on some things we need to work on. I mean, a lot of times in the NBA you're playing one night, hopping on a plane, playing somewhere else the next and then flying out. This is the most unique part about this trip, other than the fact that it's across the ocean in London, is the fact that we're actually going to be in a city for a couple of days before we play and have a chance to work together.

So that's a real unique part from a travel perspective, from a preparation perspective. But everything else will be what I would say is pretty similar to the norm.

Q. What is it like working with such a young, talented group? Also, what it is like to be compared to Gregg Popovich because of the impact you're having?
BRAD STEVENS: Well, first and foremost, I really enjoy coaching this group. We have a long way to go. I don't think we're playing at the level of a 60-win team, so we'll find out how good we are when everything is done.

As far as being compared or talked about in the same breath as Coach Popovich, I would have to check the source and tell them they probably don't know what they're talking about. I'm not in that ballpark, and I'm pretty cognizant of that. This is a league that is incredibly humbling to be a part of because the players and coaches are so good.

Every single day you have to stay on your toes just to survive, and I think that that's something that you don't take for granted.

This is a difficult task against the best of the best. To be compared to somebody like Pop, again, it's flattering, but I don't take it too seriously because I know how far away I am from a guy like him.

Q. Can you say a couple words on Daniel Theis? How well has he adjusted to the NBA game? What does he bring to the team, and what does he maybe need to work on still?
BRAD STEVENS: Daniel is an awesome guy. He's a tremendous teammate, and he is probably as comfortable in his role and what he does well as anybody that I've coached. He knows what he does well. He stays in that box, and as a result has had a great first 40 games. As a rookie and undrafted guy, a guy that had never played in the NBA before, it's incredible how impactful he's been for us. There will certainly be games where he plays more than others just based on matchups and everything else, but he's a guy that we believe strongly in now and as we move forward.

Q. I would like to know about Kyrie Irving. We know he's one of the best players in the league. I would like to know where do you think he can get better -- defense, leadership?
BRAD STEVENS: I think he can get better in every area on the court, and I think the best players in the league consistently have that focus. If you look at the last few MVPs in the league, especially as you go through [Stephen] Curry and then [Russell] Westbrook, the jump they made from the year before to their MVP year was as big as anybody. I think sometimes we look at most improved players as people that come off the bench and then start or go from not playing to a sixth man role, and we miss the fact that oftentimes the best players in the league are the most improved players from year to year, and there's a reason why they're where they are.

Kyrie works the right way. He's got a great attitude about it. He wants to be great. He doesn't take for granted what he's already achieved. He works to be great the next day. And that's why I think he'll keep getting better.

Q. How important is it for the players and the league to play overseas?
BRAD STEVENS: I think we all recognize the impact of the NBA but certainly the impact of basketball across the world. I think of all the many incredible things that basketball has given to me, it's been the opportunity to go to different places because of the game. When I was a college player, I played in four different countries in Europe. When I coached at Butler, we took our team to Finland. We took our team to Italy. We had set up a trip to go to Australia right before I left.

As part of the NBA, I've already gotten a chance to coach in Madrid and Milan and also go on an NBA Cares trip to Johannesburg, and now we get to come to London. Without basketball, I don't get to go to any of those places.

To me, it's just another thing to speak to why we're so thankful to get an opportunity to do what we do, and kind of, I guess, the global impact of the game and how we're all tied by the love of the game, and I think that that for a basketball junkie like me is the fun part of it.

Q. Your thoughts about playing the Cavs tomorrow, the first time since the opening-night meeting where you lost Gordon Hayward like a minute in, and things you learned there that you can use for this one. And is there concern that your young guys have been playing so well and are so ready to contribute that they'd be gassed or hitting the wall later in the season?
BRAD STEVENS: I think that you always think about that every single day and what you're preparing to do. There's a reason why we haven't practiced much over the last 60 days, is because we didn't want to add the extra wear and tear. We would manage it through the games. We've got, I think, one guy on our team in the top 50 in minutes in the NBA. So I feel like we've managed that well, and we've asked guys to be very forthright with us about how they're feeling so we can manage it even better.

Now we have a little bit more chance to practice. We'll be on the court a little bit more on off days, but we'll still do so with the big picture in mind. Everything that we're always doing from a coaching standpoint and a sports standpoint is all geared towards trying to navigate the long season, maximize each moment, but then be ready to be your best at the end of the year.

I think as far as the Cavs go, they're the class of the East. They've been the class of the East for the last two and a half years, and everybody, including us, is chasing them.

Q. Events like NBA London speak to the ever-increasing international culture within the NBA. Do you think that's part of the reason the league is in such a good place? And then the second question, is Gordon Hayward traveling to London?
BRAD STEVENS: Gordon Hayward will not travel. He has not traveled on any of our road games yet and probably won't for a little bit longer, until basically he doesn't need our equipment here to do what he needs to do. So that's still down the road a little bit.

As far as the international influence on the NBA, I don't think there's any doubt that it's one of the coolest parts of my job. I mean, we have a player from the Dominican Republic, we have a player from Germany, we have a player from Australia, we have a player from France, we have a player that was born in Egypt. It's a special thing to be around people from all over the world working toward one common goal. That's why people love sports, because we get a chance to see that kind of intentional pursuit, and it's certainly a great part of the NBA, especially with all the different backgrounds on every team.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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