brad stevensWALTHAM, Mass. — Back when he patrolled the bench at Butler, Brad Stevens loved filling his non-conference schedule with members of college basketball’s elite.

Duke, Indiana, Louisville, North Carolina and Gonzaga all made trips to Hinkle Fieldhouse during Stevens’ tenure.

Stevens no longer has that kind of scheduling control now that he’s coaching in the NBA, but he plans to use the Boston Celtics’ formidable early-season schedule — 12 of their first 14 opponents reached the playoffs last season — to serve the same purpose.

“It’s really interesting,” Stevens said before Tuesday’s Celtics practice, “because the way that I look at it is this: You’ve got to play all those teams, right? What we always did, especially my last few years (at Butler), was we tried to schedule as hard as we could, so at Christmas, we could honestly evaluate ourselves. And I think we’re going to be able to do that pretty soon.”

The Celtics’ schedule in Stevens’ first season featured early-November meetings with the Milwaukee Bucks, Utah Jazz and Detroit Pistons, plus two with the Orlando Magic. All four of those teams joined Boston in the draft lottery at season’s end.

That will not be the case this year, as the C’s likely will not be favorites until they visit the Philadelphia 76ers 10 games into the season.

“We’ll find out a lot more about ourselves over the next few weeks,” Stevens said. “The key is, like I said last week, if things go really well and we get a big win, we’ve got to just stay in the moment and move on to what’s next. If things go really well but we don’t get over the hump, and we play great but we don’t quite get a big win, we’ve just got to stay in the moment and move on to what’s next. You’ve got to do that anyway in the NBA season, but I think it’s especially important for us in this month.”

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