No team in the NBA has a more awkward Media Day than the Boston Celtics. Given everything that has transpired over the last week, it's such a weird place to be. Coming off a Finals appearance, some legit additions to the roster, another offseason of internal development, this should be a time where both the players and fans are over the fucking moon when it comes to this team and the 2022-23 NBA season. But with the season ending injury to Danilo Gallinari followed by Robert Williams getting knee surgery and missing at least 8-12 weeks which was then immediately followed by Ime Udoka getting suspended for the season and most likely never coaching in Boston again, things are….weird. You have to remember that the team still has the talent and the expectation to be one of the best teams in the league, but there is now so much uncertainty surrounding the team that I won't blame you if you don't know how to feel.
That's why I was really interested to hear from Joe Mazzulla and the players today. Not in a sense that I thought they would give us some information that we didn't know or anything like that, but we literally haven't heard from anyone since all this shit went down other than Brad and Wyc and even they didn't tell us too much for obvious reasons. We're in this weird grey area where the team and the players can't tell us everything while at the same time trying to get everyone excited for the season. It's just really awkward to watch.
A lot went on and we have a lot to digest, so let's dive in
I cannot imagine what is going through Joe Mazzulla's brain right now. To go from finally being promoted to sitting in the first row of the bench to now being the man responsible for leading this team is quite the matzah ball. Unless you're a psycho and paid attention to the 2020 Summer League, you probably had no idea who this dude was. For the first time speaking as this franchise's new head coach, I thought Mazzulla did pretty well
Alright, there's a lot here. For starters, you can see why Brad feels so confident in Mazzulla. Listening to him answer these questions felt like a mini Brad was talking. Talking about an "opportunity to grow" and "controlling what we can control" mixed in with some self-deprecating humor is right out of the Brad playbook. There are still things we won't know until the games actually start when it comes to Mazzulla. Will he run the same system as Ime? If so, how close can he get it to look like it did last year when the Celts were one of the best teams in the league for the final 6 months. How will he handle personalities and in game rotations? This isn't to say he'll be awesome at it or suck at it. We have no idea, that's why it's a question heading into the season. When you become the guy in charge of playing time, things can change.
I dunno if "liked" is the right word, but I am relieved that the team and Joe himself didn't go the Chauncey Billips route when talking about his past legal issues. He faced it head on and owned up to what happened. That's all you can really ask for I guess.
Jaylen Brown & Jayson Tatum
As the leaders and best players of this franchise, I think most people were very interested to hear what both had to say today. The pressure on both went up a few notches given everything that's transpired, and as we know the team will go as far as those two are able to carry them. Let's start with Jaylen
I thought it was pretty interesting hearing from Jaylen that not only has he not talked to Ime since this all went down, but the players are just as confused as the rest of us. Nobody really knows anything outside of Wyc/Brad/Ime and I would assume the Celts legal department. My guess would be there are legal reasons for that, but it also tells me that this situation is much, much bigger than initially reported.
In regards to the trade rumors, I would give anything to have been a fly on the wall for those conversations. For all we know Jaylen went in there and told the team he was bullshit over it and he's leaving. It's also possible that Brad and Wyc told him that it was all bullshit and he can expect a max contract coming his way the second the Celts are able to do it and it's a non issue. It's not as if Jaylen hasn't been in this spot before, and now given what happened with Ime we have no clue how this will go moving forward.
I loved his response about not banking on last year. Past success doesn't guarantee shit for the future, and having one of your franchise guy take on that mindset can only help. We know this team has a problem at times of falling in love with their own hype or thinking they can just show up and win because they're the Boston Celtics. Almost always that has proven to backfire. This showed me some growth on Jaylen's end and the understanding that nothing is given and everything they achieve this year they're going to have to earn. Nobody gives a shit that they made the Finals last year. To assume you can just roll out the ball and things will look the same isn't realistic.
Tatum confirmed as well that he hasn't talked to Ime either. That tells me maybe there was some sort of team mandate about it or something while everything gets figured out. Feels a little strange that the two franchise pillars would be kept in the dark like this, but that tells me again that things must be really serious. I'm not saying they need the details or anything like that, but Tatum went on to say he found out on Twitter just like the rest of us. You just don't get the sense in listening to both Tatum and Brown that Ime will one day be back.
Something I'm interested to see is if we see Tatum somehow avoid his disastrous starts. Every single year it's been the same thing when it comes to his early season struggles. He starts October/November playing some of the worst basketball we've ever seen, people go on the internet/TV and say stupid shit, then from December-the end of the season he plays at an All NBA level. Given the team's current situation, having Tatum ready to roll and be productive from the jump is extremely important. I'm not sure they can afford another 3-4 weeks of him shooting like 35/32% from the floor.
For starters, it feels nice to be wanted. There was a time that nobody on earth was choosing to take their talent to Boston. I'm talking anyone, not only good players like Brogdon. Of course things look a little different today than they did when Brogdon was presented with this offer, but whatever.
On a day like today, I think you expect everyone to say all the right things. This isn't the first time we've heard Brogdon say shit like this when it comes to his role, and while it's nice to hear it's one of those things where we'll have to see it to truly believe it. What happens if the Celts are in the middle of a skid where their current rotation isn't working? What if Brogdon doesn't see the floor late in games? What if he does, how does that impact other players? Brogdon becomes a pretty important piece to the puzzle given his skillset on both end of the floor, so having him truly buy into whatever Joe Mazzulla decides is crucial.
God dammit, I think I love Luke Kornet.
He also declared that we're officially rolling with The Green Kornet as opposed to Murder Kornet. Can't say I love that, but you can't win em all I suppose.
This whole situation is so insane. I thought Marcus did a pretty good job summing up how we all feel about this. We're all just so confused. It's hard to know what to think given that we don't have anywhere close to all the details.
As important as it's going to be for Jaylen and Tatum to carry this team, it's just as important that Smart does not regress in terms of all the progress we saw him make as the point guard for this team last season. Just because Ime isn't there to keep him in check, the team cannot afford to have his bad habits return. His buy in to continue to play how he did last season is extremely important. That style clearly works.
Personally, I'm not as worried about this as maybe some others are. I think it goes back to what Mazzulla said about replicating what works. Smart knows what does and doesn't work. Given that the team is competing for a title, now is not the time to fuck around. Everyone knows Smart fancies himself a leader of this team, and it'll be on him to play like one at all times.
All I want in life is for Rob to be healthy and happy. After everything he gave this team last season and over the course of their playoff run, I don't know how you couldn't respect the dude. He gets it. Whatever it takes to win, Rob is going to do. It sucks that he had to go back under the knife and it sucks even more that his recovery timeline doubled, but it's clear that the team waited as long as they could to avoid surgery until it became clear that it was the only option.
Yes, I'm still upset this team couldn't close the deal in the Finals for Al Horford. Guy was so fucking good, my heart still breaks for him. But it's time to turn the page and if there's one guy you can bank on that will do his part to not only improve his own game but make sure everyone on the team is aligned, it's Al.
I think you're a little crazy if you think this year will be the exact same for Al. It's unfair to think he won't regress at least a little bit, so the goal in my opinion is to find a way to get like 80-85% of what we watched last season. That might mean more rest, but he's too valuable a piece to have another year where maybe you burn his minutes during the regular season. That's why I was surprised to hear that he was training and preparing to play back to backs. This is why I love Al. He probably knows he won't, but he still trained as if he would.
Listen, we all know Grant spent the summer doing a lot of talking. Most of the shit he said probably should have just staying in his brain, but oh well. In terms of what he said today? I love it. How could you not? He's right, there are no excuses. This team is ready to contend. You need to be ready to go from the first preseason game let alone the home opener. That's stuff you love to hear.
When it comes to his extension, I am asking you Brad….just pay the man. I can't imagine he wants an outrageous number, the owner just went to the Globe and said Brad has a blank check to build the roster, so let's get this done. When you're a versatile player like Grant is on both ends and then you also shoot over 40% from three, that costs money. If the team's initial offer is like 10-12M and Grant wants 14M or something, pay the man his money. You don't have an Al replacement on the roster and if Grant has another year like he did in 2021-22, the RFA offer he's going to get is going to be more than 14M. You may as well lock him up and remove that distraction from a team that is already dealing with a shit ton of distractions.
All in all, this entire Media Day was weird as hell to watch. I think because we're all still in shock of what the hell has happened over these last few days. Doesn't matter if it's the players or the fans, we're all in this "what the fuck?" position. You want to be excited for the season, the roster is still really good and the expectations have not changed. At the same time, there's definitely a cloud hovering over everything right now. I'm sure the uncertainty absolutely impacts how you feel about the upcoming season. That's normal.
But I believe in Brad. I believe in the core of this team. I believe in what I watched last season in terms of how we know this team can play. You add that all up and we're in for one hell of a ride. Celts in 5.