Last week, Toronto Raptors coach Dwane Casey was not only fired, but was named the Coach of the Year by his colleagues prior to being canned.
One thing that was notable about the coaches’ voting was that one of the people in the running for the “Best Coach in the NBA” title didn’t receive a single vote from his peers.
The Boston Celtics’ Brad Stevens — who many thought did an incredible job getting his team to the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference despite several key injuries — was not one of the eight NBA coaches to receive a vote in the poll of the 30 NBA head coaches. Coaches could cast only a single vote, but it was still somewhat stunning to see Stevens not receive any consideration.
Again, Brad Stevens did not. That's insane. #Celtics
— Adam Kaufman (@AdamMKaufman) May 9, 2018
While many people were outraged at Stevens’ being shut out, LeBron James apparently wasn’t among them.
Ahead of his Cleveland Cavaliers taking on Stevens’ Celtics in the Eastern Conference Finals, LeBron called the praise for Stevens “overblown.”
“I think they are one of the most well-coached teams in our league,” he said. “Obviously, you know what I’ve said about Brad Stevens before and his ability to get the most out of his guys, how great they are out of timeouts, late-clock situations as well, no matter who is on the floor or no matter who has played for them. He can put guys in position to succeed and get the most out of whoever has been in their lineup over the past few years, it’s not just this year.
“I think it has been a little bit overblown this year because of the names that has been out. Obviously, with Kyrie [Irving] and Gordon [Hayward] and the injuries with those two big guys, but he has gotten the most out of everybody he has ever put in his position since he’s gotten to Boston.”
LeBron seems to be saying that the praise this year is overblown because Stevens didn’t all of a sudden become a great coach, he’s been one all along.
Stevens’ teams have consistently overachieved, and the Celtics’ win total has improved each season since he took over.
This year, he led the Celtics to a 55-27 record despite the team being the fourth-youngest in the NBA. Of the eight youngest teams in the NBA this season, only the Celtics made the playoffs.
By describing Stevens’ hype as “overblown,” LeBron also might be saying that the Celtics roster is more talented than people seem to believe.
Yes, they’ve had to deal with injuries to Hayward and Irving, but they still have a five-time All-Star in Al Horford as well as young players like Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart, all of whom were drafted within the first six picks.
Stevens would likely brush off the “overblown” quote from LeBron just as he did from getting snubbed on the Coach of the Year vote.
Adds: "I think it's a lot more important to focus on competing with your team rather than compare yourself to others. Because I'm telling you, if it gets to be a comparison contest, I'm screwed."
— Nicole Yang (@nicolecyang) May 9, 2018
Stevens was snubbed by his peers and (somewhat) snubbed by the game’s best player, but he might get redemption with the NBA Coach of the Year award, which is voted on by sportswriters.
He’s considered a heavy favorite for that honor, and the media aren’t likely to vote for someone who just got fired from his job, as Casey was.
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