After their first trip to the NBA Finals since 2010, the Boston Celtics are adjusting to the suspension of coach Ime Udoka and the arrival of new interim coach Joe Mazzulla.
The Celtics will open the 2022-23 NBA campaign Tuesday at home against Philadelphia under their third different coach in as many seasons.
Less than a month ago, Celtics management imposed a full season ban on Udoka after learning he was having a relationship with a female staff member in violation of team rules.
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Just days before the start of training camp, the Celtics turned to Mazzulla, 34, a Boston assistant for the past three seasons, to guide a club considered among NBA title contenders.
“I’m in a lucky situation because I’ve been here for three years and we had the offseason to prepare for what we wanted to do before the season,” Mazzulla said.
“There is not much to change. I think it’s just about learning from last season and how to improve.
Mazzulla, who spent two years as head coach of a small college from 2017 to 2019, leads a side that went 51-31 last season in his first campaign under Udoka and reached the final of the NBA before losing to the Golden State Warriors in six games.
A season of high expectations lies ahead after losing two wins before an 18th crown for the Celtics.
“He’s someone we’re comfortable with,” Celtics star Jayson Tatum said. “He’s been here three years, so the same person, just in a different position now. He is someone we know well and for whom we have a lot of respect. »
Tatum led the Celtics with 26.9 ppg last season while Jaylen Brown added 23.6 ppg and Marcus Smart contributed 12.1 points and team highs of 5.9 assists and 1 .7 interceptions per game.
“I have a really good relationship with Joe,” Smart said. “I think almost everyone on the team does. Joe has been here through the hard times, through the good times.
“He knows us and understands us as players. He built a relationship with us, so we love Joe. We are thrilled to be able to work with him and this opportunity he has.
Maintaining strong communication with players is key for Mazzulla.
“The most important thing for me is just to make sure that the players and I are on the same page – to make sure that we are focused on the expectations that we have for this season from the point of view of the basketball and how we move forward together, building trust and building relationships,” Mazzulla said.
His biggest new relationship will be with veteran point guard Malcolm Brogdon, on an offseason deal with Indiana.
“He’s an incredibly impressive guy,” Brogdon said. “He’s only 34 but he’s incredibly disciplined.
“He’s a guy who pays attention to everything. He’s an incredibly closeted, smart guy and our players respect and love him.
“He’s a guy who’s ready for this opportunity and who’s going to thrive.”
– Gallinari sidelined –
The Celtics signed free agent Blake Griffin in early October, but will be without Italian point guard Danilo Gallinari, who signed a two-year contract in July.
Gallinari, 34, suffered a left knee ligament injury in late August while playing for Italy in a basketball World Cup qualifier. He had successful surgery last month but is unlikely to return this season.
“I just take it day to day,” Gallinari said. “It’s the best way to approach rehab and approach an injury like this and not really think about what’s going to happen in the future.”
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