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Brad Stevens Wants To See A Gritty, Tough Celtics Team 'That Boston Can Really Get Behind'

BOSTON (CBS) -- Brad Stevens has been a busy man this summer. But he expected that when he took over for the retiring Danny Ainge and moved from the Celtics bench to front office.

The new Celtics president of basketball ops. has been furiously rebuilding both the Boston roster and coaching staff this offseason. He brought in Ime Udoka to take over on as head coach, and in his first big front office move, Stevens traded away point guard Kemba Walker. That was just the tip of the iceberg in a transaction-filled offseason for Boston.

Gone are Walker, Evan Fournier and Tristan Thompson. In came Dennis Schroder, Enes Kanter, Josh Richardson and Al Horford, among others. Marcus Smart was also given a four-year contract extension, though Stevens couldn't discuss that Thursday when chatting with reporters because it hasn't been made official yet. Through it all, the Celtics avoided a hard cap this offseason, and Stevens even picked up another $17 million trade exception when he worked out a sign-and-trade with the New York Knicks for Fournier.

Most expected the Celtics to take a step back in 2021 as the franchise transitions from the Ainge-Stevens era to the Stevens-Udoka era. But in speaking with reporters on Thursday, Stevens made it clear that the Celtics are very much focused on winning next season.

"We want to be a good team. We have been fortunate to add some guys that can really play. That is a positive," Stevens said on his Zoom session with the media. "We're in a good position from a big picture standpoint.

"The biggest thing I felt as we moved forward was I want to be a team that Boston can really get behind, that plays with a great edge and plays with a grit and toughness that is necessary to compete at a very high end," he added. "I think Ime's staff will do a great job coaching to that and we have a lot of players who have proven themselves as competitors."

Stevens even humbly took a shot at himself during the session.

"Obviously we improved our coaching and added some really good players," he said in a self-deprecating manner. "I'm excited for this group."

The group he is referring to is pretty much set, though there are a few minor moves that could be on the horizon. Boston has 16 players on its 15-man roster, and Stevens said the team is still looking to fill its second two-way contract. That will likely wait, with that two-way deal potentially going to a player who is let go by another team after training camp.

Stevens will continue to work the phones, but for now, the heavy lifting -- or the sprint, which is how Stevens described the offseason -- is pretty much done.

"Well, obviously, we have 16 players on the roster right now and so most tweaks would be around the edges," said Stevens. "But there's nothing imminent and there's nothing that I think is a certainty by any means. We will continue to monitor that and discuss those things as we go through the next few weeks, and then we'll continue to monitor that as we go through the first part of the season.

"If we do go into training camp today, I feel good about our flexibility, I feel good about the different ways we can play and I feel good about our depth," he added. "If we do that, we're going to need one or two of our younger guys to step up the way they did in Summer League and carry that forth."

Stevens does have the green light from management to go into luxury tax territory this season, which is why he operated on a budget this summer and didn't hard-cap the team before things tip off in October. So while he's likely tired from the sprint that was his offseason in the Boston front office, he'll be ready to make another big move should one present itself during the season.

More From Brad Stevens...

On Josh Richardson: "Josh brings a great grit and edge. He can defend several positions. I think last year was an anomaly with how he shot the ball. He has always been a good shooter and numbers would say when he gets the open opportunities, he's better than he shot last year. He wants to win; winning is important to him. The way he separated himself when he joined the league as a mid second-round pick is he showed his competitive character right from the gate. That is something we're looking forward to adding to our team."

On adding Dennis Schroder: "I think we were very fortunate. We were very cognizant with what we had from a resource standpoint in free agency. Dennis is a guy who, if you asked me in the first few days of free agency, it would probably be unlikely we would be in play for him. He has a super edge, is a super competitor -- a guy who can impact the game at so many levels and plays at both ends of the court.

"Those guys give us a lot of flexibility," he added of Richardson and Schroder. "With those guys and Marcus, Jaylen, Jayson, Al and Rob [Williams], you have seven proven guys who have been able to play at a starter and finisher level, and that is exciting."

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