The Boston Celtics may or may not be better than they were last season. But Brad Stevens and Ime Udoka are intent on making them tougher.
Stevens has been busy since replacing Danny Ainge as Celtics president of basketball operations in June, acquiring veterans Al Horford, Josh Richardson, Enes Kanter and Dennis Schroder while parting with Kemba Walker and Evan Fournier. Kris Dunn and Bruno Fernando are on the roster as well, although it's possible they get moved in a subsequent deal to trim the roster to 15 players.
That's a significantly different supporting cast for Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown than the team rolled out last season. And it was built with intention.
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"I want to be a team that Boston can really get behind," Stevens said Thursday during a video press conference. "That plays with a great edge. That plays with the grit and toughness that's necessary to compete at the very, very high end.
"I think Ime's staff will do a great job coaching to that, and I think we have a lot of players (who) have proven themselves as competitors, and that's exciting."
Stevens' goal of building a "tougher" Celtics team began with his hire of Udoka, a defensive-minded coach who, in his own words, likes to "bring the dog out in guys."
From there, Stevens sought out experienced veterans who aren't afraid to get their hands dirty, from Richardson -- "brings a great grit; an edge ... he wants to win" -- to Schroder -- "super edge; super competitor" -- to Kanter, who "brings us toughness."
Why is Stevens so focused on "edge" and "toughness" with a team that struggled to find secondary scoring outside of Tatum and Brown last season?
Stevens' history in Boston may provide a clue: He found the most success as Celtics head coach with teams like the 2016-17 squad featuring scrappy, hard-nosed players like Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Avery Bradley and Marcus Smart -- who reportedly is staying in Boston for at least four more seasons after a new contract extension.
So, perhaps Stevens had that group in mind when constructing this year's roster. Whether those intangibles can translate to wins remains unclear, but it sounds like Stevens wants to make sure the 2021-22 Celtics aren't outworked.