Boston Celtics | Coach Brad Stevens
Q: Everyone’s back, you re-signed Marcus Smart and there’s no contract issues and it seems like this is the team you kind of wanted since you’ve been here. How do you focus on this could be a special year this year?
A: Yeah, that’s why we have such a focus on playing well and playing as well as you can and realizing it’s still a long season and there’s going to be a lot of bumps in the road. There’s going to be some times where you’re feeling better about yourself than you should and trying to avoid that and moving on and trying to become the best version of ourselves.
We’ve got to reintegrate guys, I think that’s going to be the early part of the challenge because of how it affects everybody from a playing standpoint. So, we’ve just got to do the best that we can to make sure we’re all moving in one direction, we’re all on the same page and we recognize that some nights are going to be our nights and some nights are going to be other guys’ nights. But, collectively, we can have a good team if we keep the course.
Q: So, it’s a great problem to have too much depth as opposed to not a lot of depth?
A: I think you always want more depth. The reality is when we were playing in the playoffs last year, we probably didn’t have as many curveballs we could throw because we had a number of guys; not only did we have a number of guys out, we didn’t have to decide if anyone was inactive or not by the end of it.
I think anytime you have more depth, you have more options. But, the other side of that is, when you don’t have as much everyone knows what they’re going to get to do every night. That’s the challenging part. We’re all empathetic to that part, but at the same time the main thing is to win the next game.
Q: In this league now, teams have gotten good at resting their players. I don’t think you’ve ever had that chance before? What about this year? Is that something you’ll look into?
A: It’s happened organically. We’ve done that with Al (Horford) on a number of occasions the last couple of years, Kyrie (Irving) on a couple of occasions. The most important thing: if there’s something where a person needs that, a day off from a health standpoint, then they’ll get it. That’s probably a health situation that’s been decided medical-wise where it’s been decided in advance. But, if we’re all healthy and all given the green light, then we’ll play, but see how we’re doing as the season goes along and see how it all adds up.
Q: Is there plan for Gordon and Kyrie to play in back-to-backs in November?
A: Yeah, the plan is for them to play in back-to-backs. Gordon (Hayward) will probably be a little bit limited early, not in any big way, just because he’s been for so long, the 13 months.
Q: Daniel Theis’ season got cut short by surgery? How does he look to you?
A: It’s not just reintegrating just Kyrie and Gordon, it’s Daniel as well. I thought he had a really good year for us last year. He’s playing a position for us where we’ll play Al (Horford) there sometimes, we’ll play him, we’ll play (Aaron) Baynes, we’ll play Robert Williams, Guerschon (Yabusele), it’s a position where some nights those guys will get great opportunities and other nights they won’t. One of the things you appreciate most about Daniel is he’s just going to come and be him every night. You know exactly what you’re getting on both ends of the floor.
Boston Celtics | Daniel Theis
Q: How are you feeling, back working and no second thoughts about knee?
A: I feel great. My knee has recovered. I still need some more explosiveness, but I think it’s going to come with all those games because I haven’t played. Except for the preseason games, I haven’t played in so long. So, right now, I’m just enjoying every practice I can have. We practice hard, really competitive. I’m just happy to be back on the court.
Q: You had a really good rookie season. Do you set the same kind of aspirations, the same kind of goals for yourself?
A: First of all, I hope I can play at the same kind of role I had. Every time I step on the court, I want to help the team. So, hopefully, I can be a part of it early in the season. I feel great, my knee’s ready, so whenever I step on the court I want to help the team.
Q: Was there a turning point early in the season where you felt you could play your game at this level?
A: I think even from the beginning I played consistent. Before I got hurt after the All-Star break, I probably played my best basketball since I got here. Hopefully I can get there again. We’ve got so many games where I can hopefully find my rhythm really quickly. At the end of the day, we have so many good players, I think it’s going to be fun, more fun to watch than the preseason.
Q: There’s a lot of nicknames for you: there’s Vanilla Theis, Theis Baby, which one do like the best?
A: I heard them, too. Whatever they want to call me. It’s fun. It’s just the fans having fun giving nicknames. There’s Scary Terry. It’s just fun. Especially in Boston, the fans are just amazing. If they give me anyone they want, Vanilla Theis or Theis Baby, it’s fine with me.
Oklahoma City Thunder | Abdel Nader
Q: How excited are you about your new start at OKC?
A: I’m really excited. You know, I just came back from a long injury. Not that long, but it felt long to me. And I’m just excited to get things rolling again.
Q: What is it like to play alongside players of the caliber of Paul George, Russell Westbrook and Dennis Schroder?
A: It’s a blast. They’re three highly intelligent, highly talented players. And it’s just a blessing that I get to play with them and learn from them every day.
Q: Do you think your new teammates can help you improve your own game this season?
A: I can learn a lot of things. I mean, they’re both pretty good all-around players, so I just take bits and pieces every day from defense to offense and try to incorporate it with my own game.
Q: Do you have any personal goals for the upcoming season?
A: I just want to be the best player I can be. That’s always been my goal. Probably play more minutes, help my team a little more. That’s about it.
Q: What are your memories of your trip to London with the Celtics and the NBA London Game?
A: It was cool and it was a really good environment at the London Game. I was surprised at how many people came and how many people are actually involved in the NBA every season in Great Britain, so it was great.
Q: Is that something that you hope to be able to be part of again?
A: Yeah, definitely. I’d love to be able to do something like that in any country. It’s a good experience.
Oklahoma City | Timothé Luwawu-Cabarrot
Q: What are your expectations for this year, especially here in Oklahoma City?
A: The team’s goals are clear, make the playoffs and play better basketball than last year, the last two years. The last two years we lost in the first round of the Playoffs and I always see that as a goal and t a natural goal to go past that this season.
My personal goal is to be a better player, be a new me, be someone else compared to who I’ve been during my two first years in Philadelphia. Be something else. Bring something else to the game and bring something else to this team. I really feel like it’s a good opportunity for me and for the team also because we can build something together. We can really build something throughout the years that I’m here. We have a great group of guys, and it’s going be easy because they make it easier for me.
Q: How do you feel about the competition for the position Hamidou Diallo and Terrance Ferguson?
A: It’s always great to have competition. It’s nothing unhealthy or nothing bad. It’s just great teammates. We all know we have to be at our best, we have play at 100% every time to make ourselves better. If they are playing at 100%, they will make me better. That’s how we work every day and that’s how we compete every day.
Q: How would you compare the atmosphere in Oklahoma City to Philly?
A: It does feel different. I think the crowd and the fans are kind of the same. But the way people cheer for us here in Oklahoma is a little bit louder. It’s a little bit more passionate. In Philly the fans were great, but they always expect something, so if you don’t do it, for example if you shoot and you miss two shots in a row, the reaction is ‘oh shoot, he sucks or he’s trash’. But here [in Oklahoma], you miss some shots and it’s okay, you’ll be fine, you’ll make some shots next game. If you play 100%, you play hard and show that love back to the fans, they’ll love you back and they’ll just cheer for you every single day.
Q: Last year you played in the NBA London game with the 76ers. What were your memories of that entire trip?
A: The NBA London Game was great. It felt great because there were a lot of French people and a lot of people from Europe at the game. It’s always good to show everybody back in Europe what the NBA is about. In Europe they know NBA is a big deal and they know the NBA superstars, but they don’t experience everything we do on this side of the pond. It’s good for European fans to see games and to interact with the players. Hopefully when they see a game, they like it and then maybe they start to wake up at night and watch the games. So, it’s great that the NBA are going back to London in January.
Oklahoma City | Alex Abrines
Q: What do you expect from 2018-19 season? Is there any aspect of your game that you’ve been working on the most during the last few weeks?
A: I think the team didn’t end last season as we planned, but for me especially I’d say that I showed myself that I could be a great defender, so that’s one of my focuses for this year. Just being more consistent and just keep growing as a good defender, also, not forgetting that I am also a threat from a three-point offensive standpoint.
Q: Do you think this year will be your best NBA season to date?
A: I just try and take it day-by-day. We know as shooters we have some better days than others, and of course when I’m mad because I didn’t score shots, the next day I’ll take care and shoot a little bit more after practice. But you know how it goes, like sometimes there’s that thing that you can’t score and you can do nothing about it. Just get ready for the next game and try to do it better.
Q: How has the addition of Dennis Schroder helped Oklahoma City?
A: He’s a great player. I think he’s the partner that we need. He can score in so many ways. He’s so crafty. He can do our second unit much better by pushing the ball and just keeping moving the ball like we did most part of last year. And special for me, I’m sure I’ll just be wide open. Same as Russ [Westbrook], that opens a lot of space so he can drive, and then he can either finish or just pass the ball to the three-point line.
Q: You’re entering your third year in Oklahoma City. Do you feel like a veteran yet?
A: It’s crazy because I feel like I arrived here yesterday, but it’s my third year, and I’m the fourth longest serving guy at the Thunder. I think I can help the guys, especially the new ones, to let them know like how we work here, what are the standards for the Thunder organization, and of course help the team as much as I can. I’m getting better each year, and this year is another step forward.
The 2018-19 NBA season tips off tonight on Sky Sports, the new home of the NBA in the UK with more than 170 live games throughout the season. Tune in to Sky Sports Arena from 1:00am to watch all the live action.