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May 18, 2018

Brad Stevens

Cleveland, Ohio: Practice Day

Q. Part of what Steve Kerr is so good at is not only coaching that game in particular but also in the back of his mind has the idea that he's coaching a seven-game series. Do you have that in the back of your mind as well? I know it's game to game and possession to possession.
BRAD STEVENS: I just try to stay in the moment as much as I can. Clearly there are going to be things that you have to tweak as a series goes on that you're thinking about that maybe you're not ready to put in because you're focused on other things. But I think ultimately for me, I do a lot better staying in the moment.

Q. Are you pretty satisfied with how the minutes have been allocated so far in the series?
BRAD STEVENS: You mean how many minutes guys are playing?

Q. Yes.
BRAD STEVENS: Obviously, Game 1 skews that a little bit because we were ahead and some of our guys that play a little bit more played less, which is great. Anytime that you're able to do that and you're on the good side as far as being able to win the game and get guys to play less minutes, that's huge. But the bottom line is we played really seven guys a lot of minutes here, and then we've had other guys that have played here and there depending on matchups, depending on how the game was going. Anytime that you're able to get a game like Game 1, that's helpful. But ultimately, those seven are going to play the majority of the minutes.

Q. Can you talk about the evolution of Aron Baynes' three-point shooting? It's been pretty amazing in the playoffs. Were you aware that he had that talent or is it just a recent thing?
BRAD STEVENS: When he first signed here, he came by in the preseason and was just shooting around. I was down there with him, and I remember him just hitting shot after shot after shot. It was mostly 15 to 17 feet. I talked to him a little bit about corner range, obviously, and then above-the-break range. He shot them every single day through training camp, through practice, through pregame shooting and everything else. We've encouraged him to shoot all year, especially from the corners.

I've coached bigs before that when you're used to playing and scoring as a big, you're often times used to catching it in the middle of chaos in the paint and having bodies on you and everything else. It's just a different feel to catch it in a catch-and-shoot situation, especially from behind the arc, and let it fly. I think that there's a confidence that comes with making a couple. Sometimes guys that are good shooters with good touch, that's all they need is to see a couple go in.

The game that I remember best that I thought really probably bolstered his confidence -- because he's always been a really good shooter; like if he goes out and shoots it by himself, he's going to make 70 to 75 percent of his open threes, especially in the corners -- was the Toronto game at the end of the year. He hit a couple on [Jonas] Valanciunas to spread him out a little bit. I think once he saw one go in, he felt pretty good about it. We talked about it a lot going into the Philly series because he was being guarded by [Joel] Embiid, to space to the corner. He's just kind of kept on doing it.

Q. You're using a lineup with Marcus Smart, Jaylen Brown, Jason Tatum, Marcus Smart and Al Horford and have been basically switching 1 to 5 on defense. Do you envision it as your Death Lineup, and do you plan on using it more during this series?
BRAD STEVENS: Well, I don't really get into that because obviously Terry [Rozier] has been so good in the Playoffs for us. Baynes has been one of the most impactful defenders in the NBA this season. I think it all depends on who you're playing against, how you're playing. That lineup will certainly play some minutes together. But it'll all be based on how the game is going and everything else. We switch a lot with Terry as well.

Sometimes switching you can overreact (indiscernible), and I think that (indiscernible) solid as possible and make it as tough as possible. We have a lot of bodies that can do that.

Q. What is going to change between playing at the TD Garden and playing on the road, especially in this series against Cleveland? What kind of impact do you expect in Game 3 and in Game 4 also from an emotional point of view?
BRAD STEVENS: I think that ultimately anytime you're playing on the road, the other team has got great comfort in playing at home. They've been a great home and road team over the last few years of the playoffs, so matter what, you have to play great between those lines. We have to start out with great intensity, and we have to keep that up for 48 minutes.

Like I've said a couple of weeks ago, we have a lot of guys that have been through it before, and we've got some guys going through it for the first time. But these experiences in the last month feel like they're worth three times what you would normally get just because we're going through it together as this group. When we went to Milwaukee for Game 3, I thought we were poor. I thought Game 4 we played pretty darn well. And then when we went to Philly for Game 3, I thought we were obviously pretty good.

I think that's stuff you learn over time. You get a little bit better at handling those moments. But ultimately we're going to have to go in there and play good basketball. Where it's played is one thing, but you've got to just go play good basketball. Our focus is going to be on trying to play well.

Q. Question about the way you guys have played physically and throwing so many bodies not just at LeBron but in general, how your rotations have been throughout the Playoffs. Curious to know whether or not this has been something you have planned all season for, to play this kind of physical basketball defensively going into the playoffs.
BRAD STEVENS: I don't think we're playing any different as far as obviously each team you have to plan for and prepare for, but these guys have been awesome at guarding with the appropriate physicality without fouling and being tough and covering for one another and playing with great multiple efforts all year. This was just something that we wanted to be all year. We wanted to be a better defensive team. We needed to be a better defensive team. We have a lot of interchangeable parts, like we just talked about.

All that is well and good, but if you don't play with the right physicality or as hard, then it's tough. Our guys have been really committed to it, and I'm really appreciative of that. We have our lulls on offense, but our defense seems to be great every night. Guys are very committed to it. But I don't see much difference between -- obviously the intensity and how much each possession matters. You feel like that just adds up and up in the playoffs. But I feel like our guys that were really consistent throughout the regular season are playing that way as well.

Q. Do you think that you're coaching for your job these playoffs?
BRAD STEVENS: I don't really ever think about it. This is one of those things, when you're in coaching, you get into coaching, understanding that it's probably not going to end well, and there's only so much you can control. You just try to enjoy being around the players you're with and the coaches you're with and the front office you're with and everybody else, the ownership. Just try to enjoy the experience, have as good of an experience as we all can have, and when it comes to an end, it comes to an end.

Q. Just wanted to ask about the leadership some of your younger players are showing. How do you go about encouraging them to express themselves, the rookies? How do you enable them to be leaders on this team?
BRAD STEVENS: Well, a phrase that my old boss at Butler, Todd Lickliter, used to use is: Put your signature on everything you do. That's always been very meaningful to me. I think that whether we're young, old, coaching, playing, whatever our role is, we all want to be able to put our signature on that. I think to do that, you need to feel some ownership in it. You need to feel like you're really invested in it. Our young players have been great about not only getting better, working hard to get better, being willing to say things, being willing to lead through their own authentic ways, but then also to be coached by the older players, by the assistant coaches and everybody else.

I can say we've got a really good group. We're thankful for certainly the growth of the young players. We've talked about this a lot here in Boston: Al Horford, Aron Baynes, Marcus Morris. When you have older guys like that -- and obviously Gordon [Hayward] and Kyrie [Irving], who aren't playing right now, but we're so young that they fit into the older category at 25 and 28 -- it's pretty easy to learn the right way to do things.

Q. The question I have is about the three players of African descent that you have on your roster in [Guerschon] Yabusele, [Abdel] Nader and [Semi] Ojeleye. How important are these players to your game plan in the postseason and going forward? The second part of the question is you were in South Africa for Basketball Without Borders and the Africa Game in 2015. How important are events like that to growing the game of basketball on the African continent?
BRAD STEVENS: Well, first and foremost, that was an absolute blast for me and my family and an honor to be with the NBA in Johannesburg a few years ago and get a chance to coach in that game. It was one of the highlights, I think, of my kids' lives, certainly ours, to go and visit, to spend time in Johannesburg, to spend time in South Africa. One of my favorite parts of that was getting a chance to really study [Nelson] Mandela even further by going to not only the Apartheid Museum but the Mandela Center of Memory and getting a chance to learn even more about his impact as a leader.

That was a special, special thing for our family. It's been a lot of fun to have people from all over the world with all kinds of backgrounds on our team. Though they're not playing a ton of minutes for us now -- Semi is playing the most -- all three of those guys are big, important parts of our team. They've been tremendous in their work. Great attitudes. They have bright, bright futures in the NBA for a long time. They're a big part of us as we move forward.

Q. I was wondering if you had any interest in LeBron James as a free agent this summer. He hasn't made up his mind yet.
BRAD STEVENS: I can't talk about that stuff.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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