Brad Stevens reflects on a remarkable Celtics season and looks ahead to the next one

“You’re just looking for things that make the most sense in your group,” he said. “I think we have to walk a bit of a fine line. I think teams are fragile. I think the way teams collaborate and work together is fragile. And I think your identity as a team — when you find one that’s successful, which is what we’ve done defensively this year and when we’ve been best at sharing the ball offensively — those things are fragile.

“So just adding something doesn’t mean you’re not taking something away from the group. And changing important parts in the group doesn’t mean it can’t take your identity entirely and shift it in a direction that isn’t as successful. So it’s a pretty fine line to walk.”

Stevens said the Celtics would look to add portions where the fit seems ideal and pull leverage with the exception of their $6.3 million middle tier taxpayer or their trade exemptions. But he stressed that some boost could come from within. This season, for example, Payton Pritchard stepped into a more prominent role after a few trades in February, becoming a vital substitute.

“I believe in some of the guys who haven’t been able to play that much, that they’re going to keep improving and knock on that door soon,” Stevens said.

Stevens did not name second-year winger Aaron Nesmith, but certainly appeared to be referring to him. After promising moments as a rookie, Nesmith took a step back this season and fell out of the rotation. Still, the team appreciate his rush and defense and believe he can regain his touch on the ball.

The Trade Exceptions

Trade exceptions always sound a little juicier than they actually are. The exceptions, which will expire a year after their creation, allow teams to acquire players without sending a corresponding salary.

The Celtics have a collection of these, including three notable ones valued at $17.1 million, $9.7 million and $6.9 million. The biggest exception, created when they sold Evan Fournier to the Knicks last summer, expires at the end of July.

“These are all reasonable amounts that we can pick up good players with,” Stevens said, “so weigh that up, ok, what’s the cost that you have to pay? Are you bringing someone who will add something? [your roster]? Don’t necessarily take it with you, which of course you don’t want to.

“So it’s still a matter of being prudent and thoughtful about what the deal is. But we go through the whole list and try to find people who fit what we need and fit how we want to play and who I am [Udoka] wants to coach and makes sure that this train can take off next year.”

Stevens is entering his second offseason as the Celtics’ basketball president.Michael Reaves/Getty

The Celtics will be a luxury tax team next season. Although the exceptions would allow them to trade for a player without being restricted by the salary cap, they would still have to pay that salary and the additional tax bill it entailed. Stevens said ownership will not hold him back, however.

“We have the OK to do whatever we have to do,” he said.

Trust in Tatum

Stevens said he has a message for Jayson Tatum after his frustrating NBA Finals came to an end.

“I just told him to go on vacation,” Stevens said. “Go and get some rest. This guy gave us everything he had.”

Tatum started in the All-Star Game, was named an All-NBA first-team for the first time, and led the Celtics to the brink of a championship. But his season ended with a difficult run against the Warriors, and he seemed particularly dejected after last Thursday’s Game 6 loss.

“I think he’d be the first to say he’d like to have some of those moments back,” Stevens said. “But I thought that there are other factors that contribute to how he plays.”

Stevens believes fatigue from a long season, a stagnant offense and the Warriors’ underrated defense played a role in Tatum’s struggles.

“That’s part of the learning experience when you get to the point where you have a good idea of ​​what it takes to go all the way,” Stevens said.

But he doesn’t want a quiet streak to take away everything the star striker has achieved.

“What Jayson and Jaylen [Brown] in the playoffs, historically at their age, is thin air,” Stevens said. “I think we’re very aware of the fact that while Jayson would admit he didn’t play his best streak, there’s no way we could get through to the end without him and without all his great play.

“Thinking back to all those times – Game 6 in Milwaukee was one of the best games I’ve seen in my singles time, certainly personally and with the Celtics. Without this achievement, we would have had this discussion a month and a half ago.”

Stevens said the 18-21 start to the season likely increased the early workload of top players like Tatum and the wear and tear showed later. A clean start to next year will be a focus.

Rating of the trainer

Stevens’ biggest move in this new role last summer was the hiring of Udoka. There were some early bumps, but like the rest of the team, Udoka found a rhythm and thrived. He came fourth in the Coach of the Year poll, earning the trust of his players in the process.

“I thought he found a rhythm coaching this group that was obviously really good as we went through the regular season and into the playoffs,” Stevens said, “and did a good job of building his competitiveness , but also to keep his perspective and balance during the playoffs.

“I’ve said to people I’m close to all the time, I think his ability to bounce back from tough playoff losses was really special and his ability to always stay humble and hungry was really something special.”

First-year coach Ime Udoka (left) earned praise from his front office boss.Jim Davis / Globe Staff

A clean bill of health

Stevens said he doesn’t expect the Celtics to need off-season surgery. Center Robert Williams appeared to be limping at times in the playoffs while dealing with pain related to his knee surgery in March, but improved noticeably as the Finals progressed.

“But he needs to take some time,” Stevens said. “Both our doctors and others we have consulted with have said the same thing. There’s certainly no risk in being out there. But once it’s over, you have to give yourself a couple of weeks to fully settle down.”


Adam Himmelsbach can be reached at adam.himmelsbach@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @adamhimmelsbach.

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