BOSTON — The Boston Celtics’ typically straight-faced basketball boss Brad Stevens couldn’t hide his smile after watching just one practice with Jrue Holiday on the team.

“We made a thousand mistakes. But you could also see, like, there’s that thing that’s there,” Stevens said at an introductory news conference on Wednesday, three days after the Celtics traded for Holiday. “There’s a togetherness. There’s an excitement. There’s a joy, a competitiveness.

“And I think he brings it as well as anybody around. I just think that’s contagious.”

The Celtics acquired Holiday on Sunday from Portland, where he had been sent as part of the trade that moved Damian Lillard to Milwaukee. The deal came together on Sunday, the night before training camp opened, and Holiday sat out Tuesday’s practice and watched.

A day later, with Celtics Hall of Famer Paul Pierce as a spectator, Holiday joined his new teammates at their practice facility and set a tone that the team hopes will result in a championship.

“There was just an electricity in the gym today,” co-owner Steve Pagliuca said. “Paul Pierce turned to us and said he’s never seen an NBA practice in his whole entire career, that they went that hard, that fast for that long.”


Although they are tied with the Los Angeles (and Minneapolis) Lakers with an NBA-best 17 championships, it’s been 15 years since the Celtics hung their last banner in TD Garden. They have reached the Eastern Conference finals five times in the last seven seasons — making it to Game 6 of the NBA Finals two years ago — but they seemed to be getting no closer to another title.

So in an offseason upheaval, Stevens traded point guard and defensive star Marcus Smart for Kristaps Porzingis, gaining an All-Star big man but giving up the player who was the emotional heart of the team.

In Holiday, they believe they’ve filled that gap. It cost them point guard Malcolm Brogdon, the NBA’s reigning Sixth Man of the Year, and forward Robert Williams along with two first-round draft picks, but with Holiday joining All-Stars Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, Boston joined Milwaukee as 19/5 favorites to win it all, according to FanDuel Sportsbook.

“We’re adding everybody we can who will add character, commitment and extreme talent. We’re also, unfortunately, letting some of those guys go,” co-owner Wyc Grousbeck said. “We’re doing absolutely everything we can. But if you’re in Celtics ownership, that’s what you do. Or you make way for somebody else.”

Holiday started his career in Philadelphia, spent the next seven years in New Orleans and then moved to Milwaukee in 2020-21, joining with Giannis Antetokounmpo to win an NBA title his first season there. The next year, the Bucks lost to Boston in seven games in the Eastern Conference semifinals, and Holiday noticed something about the city and its fans.

“The fans are literally insane, and I’m proud to be a part of that,” said Holiday, who grew up in Los Angeles as a Lakers fan. “I know a lot of my family’s probably hurt, but I know this is a blue-collar town. They love people that work hard and they put their heart into it. And that’s just the type of person that I am, is every time I step on to the court, I give them everything.”


That was a hallmark of Smart’s career in Boston, too. The three-time member of the all-defensive team and 2022 Defensive Player of the Year was beloved in Boston — more for his effort than as an offensive threat who averaged 11.5 points and 6.3 assists last season.

Holiday averaged 19.3 points, 7.4 assists and 5.1 rebounds last year, matching Smart’s 1.5 steals. Grousbeck made sure to note that, in addition to his two All-Star selections and his five appearances on the all-defensive team, Holiday is a three-time winner of the NBA’s teammate of the year award.

He is also under contract for two more seasons, but Stevens said they will begin talking about an extension as soon as they are allowed. The deal put Boston over the salary cap’s new “second apron” that comes with increased penalties for big-spending teams.

“We haven’t blinked at all,” said Grousbeck, who was part of the ownership committee that worked on the restrictions. “I’m aware of all that. We’re going to be over the second apron and paying those penalties. and that’s the way life is.

“It’s designed so that we can have more competition. We’re fine with competition,” he said, “as long as we win.”

76ERS: James Harden made his return to the Philadelphia 76ers for training camp. He went through most of the drills. His new coach said he “looked good.”
That’s about as much clarity as there is at the moment for the disgruntled guard who had been seeking a trade.


No, he didn’t address his teammates about the situation before practice. No, he didn’t give any updates on his plans.

And no, he shouldn’t have to, teammate Tobias Harris maintained.

“His participation, in my opinion, is addressing that he’s here,” Harris said. “His attitude and energy today allowed everybody to understand that. He wants to go out here and compete with us and get stuff done. That’s just all really that matters, is his energy, and effort toward myself and all the teammates.”

The 10-time All-Star arrived on the Colorado State campus for practice in spite of a fractured relationship with the Sixers’ front office. He skipped the team’s media day in New Jersey on Monday and the first day of camp in Colorado on Tuesday.

Harden in June picked up his $35.6 million contract option for this season with the belief the team would try to trade him. He blasted team president Daryl Morey at a promotional event in China when no trade materialized, calling Morey a liar.

That was the backdrop entering Wednesday, when new Sixers coach Nick Nurse said he had a chat with Harden just before practice.


“The whistle blew, and we got to work,” Nurse said as he took over for Doc Rivers, who never led the Sixers past the second round of the playoffs. “He looked good, participated in a majority of it anyway. Looks like he’s physically in good shape.”

The 76ers are conducting workouts this week at Moby Arena, which is the home of the Rams’ basketball teams. Harden didn’t talk to reporters. His teammates understand this is just the business side of hoops.

“He’s not in here disrespecting any one of his teammates,” Harris said. “At the end of the day, we are out here to play basketball and do our job, represent the city and help bring a championship to Philadelphia.”

The Sixers are venturing out in the area, too. Joel Embiid and teammates recently made a trip to nearby Boulder for dinner and a chat session with Colorado football coach Deion Sanders, a Pro Football Hall of Famer.

Sanders discussed topics such as pressure, unity, being in the moment and what it’s like to go from a historically Black college or university in Jackson State to a struggling program at Colorado that was coming off a 1-11 season. The Buffaloes (3-2) remain the talk of college football.

David Adelman, one of the Sixers’ owners, said before the meal that Nurse requested the Colorado excursion to squeeze in some training at elevation (Fort Collins is about 5,000 feet above sea level). Down the interstate about 60 miles, the Nuggets won their first NBA title in franchise history by beating Miami in five games last June.


“The road to a championship for the NBA goes through Denver,” Adelman said shortly after the team met Sanders. “We’re going to get used to it because you’ll see us here in June.”

The 76ers return the reigning NBA MVP in Embiid. To bolster its roster, Philly added guard Patrick Beverley and center Mo Bamba. The team also brought back veteran Danny Green.

“You added some pieces. And you add some pieces that you feel should be the difference,” Sanders said to the Sixers at dinner. “Straight up, you guys really look at each other and hold each other accountable and you have to realize, how bad do you really want it? What are you willing to do for it? What are you willing to sacrifice for it, and how far are you willing to go for it? How hard are you willing to work for it?

“You all are among the best in the business, right? But you’ve got to put it together.”

Sanders also referenced Embiid sitting out a late-season showdown with Nikola Jokic, the two-time NBA MVP, last season in Denver. Embiid was sidelined with a sore right calf.

“A lot of folks duck that smoke right now. They want to be Tarzan on paper,” Sanders said. “Don’t sell the game that this is what I’m going to get and then when I turn on the TV I don’t get that. I don’t like that. Give me that.

“If Embiid is playing the Joker, I want to see Embiid versus the Joker. I want to see that and he goes and get it. I love it. I love the matchup. Because I want to see it.”

The Sixers didn’t take it as a slight.

“His (Sanders) big thing is he always wants to see competition,” Harris said, “and wants to see us be at our best as a whole as a group.”

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