BOSTON — Kelly Olynyk is going to really like the stern talking-to he is going to get from Brad Stevens.
Stevens, the Celtics’ head coach, had some unusual but accurate criticism for the rookie after Wednesday’s 101-97 preseason win over the Brooklyn Nets. Olynyk had a fine performance overall, much better than his nine-point, six-rebound stat line implied, but Stevens had a minor bone to pick nonetheless.
Namely, Stevens wanted to know why it took Olynyk until the 5:40 mark of the third quarter to crack the scoring column for the first time in the game.
“Kelly is still too passive shooting the ball,” Stevens said. “That’s the one thing you can be critical about, because it’s nice to be told to shoot more. So he needs to shoot it more for us, there’s no question about it.”
Aggressiveness at both ends of the floor is an issue for the Canadian big man. He loves to pass, and he is very good at it, but he also possesses a deadly jump shot from anywhere on the court. He took just three 3-pointers on Wednesday, making one, but Stevens has given Olynyk the green light. (Vitor Faverani took four.)
Defensively, Olynyk is still feeling his way around, although it is unclear whether that is due to passivity or because of the learning curve for an NBA rookie. His failure to hedge effectively on a screen and a poor rotation off the ball led to layups on two straight possessions in the second half. After he watched Courtney Lee get screened and then allowed Lee’s man to dribble in for a layup, the veteran guard quickly made the rookie aware of his error before bringing the ball upcourt.
“I don’t think you are ever where you need to be,” Olynyk said. “I think you always have room for improvement in anything you do in life.”
Faverani cracked the starting lineup for the Celtics in place of Jared Sullinger, who was sick. It was another lineup shuffle by Stevens, who used Olynyk and Gerald Wallace at the forward spots with Jeff Green and Avery Bradley in the backcourt. Faverani and Olynyk clearly benefited playing off each other, and the unit seemed to mesh well, despite another slow start.
Several players who were regulars for most of the preseason, like Jordan Crawford and Kris Humphries, played only a few minutes in the win. Wallace, by contrast, logged a game-high 37 minutes. Stevens admitted that was partly due to how tight the game was late, and that his competitive juices led him to put in players who were playing well to get a win, even if it was only preseason.
Stevens does not want anyone — players or fans — reading too much into the juggling he has done with his personnel in the last few games, however.
“Certain guys played a lot of minutes [Wednesday], certain guys didn’t play, and all of those guys have to stay ready,” Stevens said. “I wouldn’t call any of our lineups definitive or as definitive as I’d like, but I think that we’re moving in a good direction.”
Game’s on, guys
Once again, the Celtics must not have gotten the memo that the tip-off marks the start of a basketball game. It took a few minutes for the Celtics to show up against the Nets, falling behind 7-0 before Faverani got them on the board with a pair of free throws two minutes and 30 seconds in. Then it took another 2:18 for the Celtics to score their first basket.
The Celtics don’t know why they are starting so slowly, but they know it has to stop.
“We come out lackadaisical,” Wallace said. “We can’t afford that. Me and Keith [Bogans] were talking about that at halftime. We’re the type of team that can’t afford to take plays off, can’t afford to take possessions off and just be lackadaisical and nonchalant for a minute and a half, two minutes in the quarter.
“We’ve got to do everything right at every position, every minute of the game, and right now at the start of games we’re not doing that. But we’re getting better. We’re not having the long stretches like we’ve had. We’re able to stay with our defense and stay aggressive and give ourselves a chance to get back in the ball game.”
The Celtics were able to get back into the ball game on Wednesday because the Nets were without their entire projected starting lineup. Kevin Garnett, Brook Lopez, Paul Pierce and Joe Johnson all rested, while Deron Williams continued to nurse his ankle injury. It will be harder to bounce back from slow starts when the other team, no matter who it is, has its full complement of players.