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Practice: Programming the Defensive DNA

Chris Forsberg/ESPN Boston

Rajon Rondo gets up shots at the end of Thursday's practice.WALTHAM, Mass. -- Boston Celtics coach Brad Stevens calls it Defensive DNA and, during his time at Butler, he established six principles that helped guide his team's defense (concepts like commitment, positioning, prioritization, awareness, execution, and completion).

Not surprisingly, Stevens is still programming that Defensive DNA with an overhauled Celtics squad. Stevens knows this: He has the individual talent to field a very good defensive team, but getting everyone to work together is going to take some time and requires each player to buy into the system.

Over the course of two preseason games, Boston has allowed an unsightly 0.962 points per possession, according to Synergy Sports data. It's an extremely small sample size, but Boston ranked next to last entering Thursday's action, with only the Knicks -- the team it lost to Wednesday -- allowing a worse number.

So while Stevens praised his team's togetherness after rallying back from a 23-point deficit in Wednesday's loss, he hinted that there was plenty to work on. And Thursday's practice was heavy on trying to establish his team's Defensive DNA.

"We made progress today," said the team's defensive torchbearer Avery Bradley. "We want to play hard. We want to be aggressive -- that’s how I play defense, that’s how Gerald [Wallace] plays defense. We want everybody to play defense like that. That's what we tried to do today."

The Celtics went through a 90-minute session in advance of the first back-to-back of the season. With games on Friday (vs. 76ers in Delaware) and Saturday (vs. Knicks in New Hampshire), it's a safe bet that Stevens would like to see progress on the defensive end.

"I think our defense is getting better," said Wallace. "It’s going to take time. First game, we had a lot of mistakes, defensively. We didn’t box out, we didn’t rebound -- we have to understand that our guards gotta help our bigs out. In the second game, I think we did a pretty good job of helping, defensively, [and] we did a great job of boxing out and communicating on defense."

The Celtics have dropped their first two preseason games, but Wallace stressed the improvements won't be judged by wins and losses.

"Our main thing is we can go 0-for the preseason, we just want to get better as a team and really amp this thing up in the regular season," said Wallace.

Read on for quick hits from Thursday's practice that featured full attendance and a cameo from Rajon Rondo as the team went through some non-contact shooting competitions to close out the session:

* FILM REVIEW: What did Stevens see after watching the film from Wednesday's loss in Providence? "The thing that continues to stand out ... is that we’re really together," he said. "We really cheer for one another, we really pull for one another, we really share the ball. We’re doing all the team stuff, which is really good. That’s how we’re made up, we’ve got to be a great team. Second thing is, the comeback was great because it showed that togetherness, but it also showed a possession-by-possession mentality. There were a lot of things that weren’t so good, and we’ll get to that. I thought we worked on those today, and [Friday] is another great test for how we play against a different style than New York. And against a team that’s already played a couple games and played really well overseas."

* CRAWFORD BACK WITH TEAM: Shooting guard Jordan Crawford, excused from the team earlier this week due to a death in the family, returned for Thursday's session. After missing Wednesday's game, Stevens said Crawford will play on Friday against the 76ers.

* ANGRY STEVENS!? Talking about shot selection, Bradley noted that Stevens "yelled" at Kelly Olynyk and Jared Sullinger during Wednesday's game about passing up open 3-point attempts. When a reporter asked if the cool-and-calm Stevens had actually yelled, Bradley smiled and corrected himself, "Well, not yell, but talked loudly."

* WHO'S NEXT? Wallace, a monster Red Sox fan who toured Fenway and met with David Ortiz last week, was asked who he wants the team to play in the American League Championship Series. The Oakland A's and Detroit Tigers meet in a decisive Game 5 of the ALDS on Thursday night to determine who Boston plays next. "It doesn’t really matter to us," said Wallace. "We’ll take Oakland because they just find a way to lose."

* STRATEGIC REST: Wallace sat out the second half of Wednesday's game against the Knicks and, with the back-to-back looming, Stevens said at least a couple other veterans will get chunks of time off. "There’s probably one or two guys that probably won’t see as much action in [one game or the other]."