The changes to the Celtics’ trade deadline require Brad Stevens to make some changes to his rotation.
The biggest change the Celtics coach will have to make is replacing Daniel Theis in the starting lineup. Boston sent Theis, who started at power forward or center for much of the season, to Chicago on Thursday. Stevens told Celtics radio host Sean Grande that he was caught “completely off guard” by the Theis trade, which was reported minutes after the deadline, expressing that he will miss Theis defense and more.
“I think obviously losing Daniel was very difficult,” Stevens told reporters before Friday’s game against the Bucks. “I think Daniel has been one of our best defenders in recent years on a team that has really struggled to defend.
“We are going to have to get other people to step up. It’s time for everyone to do their best in that regard, and I think that’s the main thing for this team; When you lose a communicator like that, a guy who can direct your defense from the baseline, and a guy who’s going to play hard on each and every possession, that’s going to be something we’ll have to make up for. . So that’s not insignificant. “
The Celtics will have to move on, though, and now third-year Robert Williams will start at center, making just the fourth start of his career in Friday’s game against the Bucks. Williams has improved remarkably in recent weeks, seeing a steady increase in his playing time. For the month of March, Williams is averaging 10.7 points and 8.1 rebounds per game off the bench.
Stevens said he’s been encouraged by Williams’ play lately, saying he’s “a fundamental part of our team now and a fundamental part of our team for the future.”
“I think it turns him on a lot,” Stevens said. “I think he has come a long way, does a lot of good things and can complete a stat sheet. I think there are things in which he will continue to improve and his best days are still far ahead, as well as the flashes he shows. But those flashes have become much more consistent and his effort has been tremendous. He’s a competitive guy. So obviously you will have a lot of opportunities here. He’s always been more comfortable coming off the bench, so he’s going to have to adjust that here. “
While Williams is the team’s starting center right now, Stevens didn’t commit to him being the starter for the remainder of the season. Tristan Thompson, who started at center in 31 of the 35 games he played this season, is currently out due to COVID protocol. The Celtics are also reportedly interested in veteran center Andre Drummond, who was bought by the Cavaliers on Friday.
With Thursday’s subtractions came some additions. In exchange for Theis, the Celtics received the greats Moe Wagner and Luke Kornet. However, his biggest addition was point guard Evan Fournier, who came from the Magic. Unlike Wagner and Kornet, Fournier was not available to play in Friday’s game because he was getting a physical in Boston that same day.
Fournier is expected to play a much bigger role in the Celtics’ rotation than Wagner and Kornet, and Stevens hopes Fournier can acclimatize quickly.
“They’re going to put him in there and we’re going to ask him to try to learn as he goes,” Stevens said. “He’s (28), he’s played in the league for a long time. You can see our playbook. Like Moe and Luke. They will be able to learn a lot quite quickly. We will try to maintain a basic set of actions that we fall back on when those guys are in, and we build them up as time goes on. “
Fournier could make his Celtics debut on Saturday when they face the Thunder.
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