ESPN’s Brian Windhorst recently said the
Boston Celtics never considered firing head coach Joe Mazzulla. That’s surprising given the team’s inconsistent play in the postseason and at least
one player being upset with the rookie sideline boss.
Windhorst, who made the comments on a recent episode of his
own podcast, “Brian Windhorst & The Hoop Collective,” believes the club’s offseason moves are a way of showing support for Mazzulla.
Consider that Marcus Smart, an elite defender, was shipped
to the Memphis Grizzlies. Also, forward Grant Williams was practically encouraged
to sign a below-market deal for the mid-level exception with the Dallas Mavericks
as part of a three-team sign-and-trade that only landed the Celtics two second-round draft picks.
While trading Smart brought back an impressive haul in talented post Kristaps Porzingis and two first-round draft picks, the deal was made, in part, because his outspoken leadership style sometimes clashed with the understated Mazzulla.
a versatile defender with three-point range, failed to get consistent playing
time for most of the regular season. In the Eastern Conference Finals, it was hard to tell if Williams was more frustrated with guarding Miami Heat star Jimmy Butler or Mazzulla’s sporadic substitution patterns.
Both players are gone, and the team should be to easier manage. After all, Brad
Stevens — the former Celtics coach turned lead executive and ally of Mazzulla — replaced
Smart and Williams with Porzingis and Oshae Brissett, a July free-agent
signing, to allow the coach to implement the free-wheeling, offensive style he
There are concerns with these changes, though.
23.2 points and 8.4 rebounds in 65 games for the Washington Wizards last season,
but he missed 95 games in the previous four seasons. Porzingis could cause a logjam with established posts Al Horford
and Robert Williams, who have their own health issues.
An athletic wing with
size (6-foot-7, 210 pounds), Brissett saw his production fall off the past two seasons with the Indiana Pacers.
The dynamic between the head coach and his new assistant
coaches will be worth watching, too.
Mazzulla, who took over for Ime Udoka
under difficult circumstances on an interim basis last summer, had a 57-25
record and was given an extension before the playoffs. Fair or not, there was always
a feeling Mazzulla was riding the momentum of the previous season, and his entire
staff’s lack of experience would get exposed during the playoffs. That’s what happened.
Enter Sam Cassell and Charles Lee, Boston’s recent hires
as assistant coaches. While both will support Mazzulla, Cassell and Lee have NBA experience at a high level and could make good head coaches. Cassell spent three years as an assistant on Doc Rivers’ staff in Philadelphia. Lee was Milwaukee’s associate coach last season.
If the inconsistent play from May continues and the Celtics get off to a slow start, Cassell and Lee could be options to replace Mazzulla. These
Celtics will soon become especially expensive, with massive extensions coming to
stars Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum.
Support, specifically the kind Mazzulla
has received this summer, might be a luxury Stevens and ownership can’t