BOSTON — Brad Stevens can’t say enough great things about Aron Baynes.
The veteran big man has been rock solid in his first season in Boston, and on a team littered with young, inexperienced players, Baynes has severed an invaluable leadership role throughout the campaign.
Stevens had a few more glowing remarks about Baynes prior to the Celtics’ Eastern Conference finals Game 1 matchup against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Sunday, which Baynes will play as a reserve as Marcus Morris slides into the starting lineup. The C’s head coach had high praise for Baynes’ selflessness and continued flexibility as his role changes from game to game.
“We’ve done this with Baynes all year against certain matchups,” Stevens said. “He knew when we got together on whatever day it was that that was the most likely scenario. So he didn’t even step on the floor with the first group. He knows that obviously (Kevin) Love at the five is a unique coverage, and then just as many versatile guys out there to guard LeBron (James) and the other guys on the court.”
Morris being inserted into the starting five was an expected move. He’s had as much success as anyone in the league in guarding James, and as Stevens noted, the new unit gives Boston much more defensive versatility. But things could change as the series progresses, and Stevens believes the team’s attitude established by its leaders will make any potential changes seamless ones.
“I’ve said this not enough times: you can’t have better leaders than Al (Horford) and Baynes. You can’t,” Stevens said. “They’re both our two oldest players, they’re totally selfless, they’re totally in it for the team, they wrap their arms around young guys. It’s as good as it gets. So being able to take him in and out of the lineup has set a great example for everybody else. So did Jaylen (Brown) coming off injury last series. He just knows that that’s just part of it. Sometimes you don’t start the next game. I think that’s a really good situation to be in and it’s due to the leadership of those guys.”