BOSTON -- LeBron James doesn't give a king's welcome to every new NBA coach, but even a player who skipped the college level took note of what Brad Stevens accomplished at Butler.
That's why James took a moment during the first Celtics-Heat meeting of the season to greet Stevens on the sideline.
"I didn't plan to do it; it just happened," James explained before the Celtics posted a 101-96 triumph over his Heat at TD Garden on Wednesday night. "A well-respected college coach, what he was able to do in taking that Butler team to two straight Final Four appearances, and he seems like a pretty cool guy. I don't know him personally, but he seems cool. Welcome to the NBA. It's pretty cool."
Stevens called James "kind" for the early-season acknowledgment. It turns out Stevens recruited one of James' best friends, Romeo Travis, who elected to sign with hometown Akron and went on to be Mid-American Conference Player of the Year.
"I would have loved to have recruited [James]," quipped Stevens. "Wasn’t in the cards."
James' appreciation of mid-major basketball only grew this season. He noted that his cousin, Darius Carter, plays for undefeated Wichita State.
James sat out Wednesday's game due to back spasms. Stevens said he hopes it's a short-term injury, but didn't exactly fret about all that wasted preparation when James was a late scratch.
"Well, listen, if it’s a choice of playing against LeBron or not, then I’ll plan for him until whenever," quipped Stevens.
NO DECISION ON BABB
Chris Babb's second 10-day contract is scheduled to expire Thursday night, but Stevens said no decision has been made about whether the rookie wing will be retained for the rest of the season.
Babb logged his fourth consecutive DNP on Wednesday night against the Heat. After the game, he said he had not been informed about his future. The Celtics do not practice Thursday and have an afternoon flight to New York in advance of Friday's game against the Brooklyn Nets.
"Haven't talked about it at all; don’t know what will happen at the end of that," said Stevens. "I know that we are thin on wings with size. That being said, he’s a wing with size. What we do moving forward, I don’t know. I love having him around. I think he’s great. He’s an unbelievable teammate. And I think when he’s played, he’s given us good minutes."
In six appearances since being signed from the Maine Red Claws of the D-League earlier this month, Babb has averaged 2.2 points, 1.3 rebounds and 11.5 minutes per game.
Hop HERE for more on the decision Boston faces on Babb.
NOT A CENTER OF ATTENTION
In 30 games since being shipped from Miami to Boston, Joel Anthony has appeared in only 13 games for a total of 57 minutes. His most recent appearance saw him log no actual game time as he was inserted for end-of-half defensive purposes before the opponent threw away an inbounds pass (and Anthony was promptly subbed back out as Boston went back on offense). Still, Stevens said he's committed to getting a look at Anthony if the opportunity arises.
"Joel is probably our one true 5, and he’s not playing as much [as Boston's surplus of power forwards], but I hope that we get an opportunity where he plays here and there, because I think he’s a guy that I’d like to see how he can protect the rim for us and defend the post," said Stevens.