Brad Stevens talks Joe Mazzulla, the Celtics’ trade deadline approach
“Our focus has been on how to make this team and staff and give everything we have to make sure we’re as good as we need to be.”
The Celtics have mostly had an enjoyable start to the 2022-23 season under interim coach Joe Mazzulla, but the last few weeks have been a bit rocky.
Boston’s lost five of its last six games, losing against Golden State on one end and losing the first three games of its homestand to Orlando (twice) and Indiana on the other.
Still, the Celtics are 22-10 and are only a half-game back of the Bucks for the league’s best record. While Mazzulla’s been credited for helping the Celtics stay on the right track following the Ime Udoka scandal, Celtics president of basketball operations Brad Stevens didn’t have an update on the status of Mazzulla’s interim tag.
“We haven’t really even talked about it recently,” Stevens told reporters on Friday. “Our focus has been on how to make this team and staff and give everything we have to make sure we’re as good as we need to be.”
Stevens said that Mazzulla’s done a good job and has been “running the show.”
“He’s been great and his staff’s been great,” Stevens said. “That’s something that probably doesn’t get talked about enough. I think that was a unique thing for everybody and the staff just came in and did their job to adding to winning. That’s what we have to do. Everybody in this building has a role, we all have to play it as well as we can to give ourselves a chance to win.”
Stevens also credited Mazzulla for incorporating his vision on the team while also integrating the opinions of other coaches. The Celtics held the best offensive rating in NBA history before their recent six-game road trip to begin December. The team has dipped a bit, but still hold the league’s second-best offensive rating.
Stevens seemed encouraged about the potential growth shown by Mazzulla and his staff through the early stages of the season.
“Every 20 games that you coach in the NBA, you’re just getting better and better and better,” Stevens said. “Just even like looking at where we started from the start of training camp, the leadership, the organization, the way that everybody embraced him, he embraced everyone else. He’s very open to people, to the different ideas that they have.”
One big question around the NBA will be centered around what teams will do ahead of February’s trade deadline. The Celtics will almost certainly be in buyers mode if they chose to make a move considering their contender status. Stevens said Friday that the team will “let the game tell us what to do over the next couple of months.”
“We want to win, there’s no question about it,” Stevens said. “We have a really good team and hopefully we are playing great over the next couple of months. But we’ll evaluate that and we’ll make the decisions that — right or wrong — we think may give us the best chance of winning.”
Boston’s been in buyers mode even since Stevens assumed his current role in June 2021. The Celtics have unloaded first-round picks in three consecutive drafts and four first-round picks total.
The team made a pair of notable trades last trade deadline to acquire Derrick White from the Spurs and Daniel Theis from the Rockets. In the offseason, the Celtics blew past the luxury tax line when they acquired Malcolm Brogdon in a trade from the Pacers.
Boston will have some pieces available if it chooses to make a move at the deadline. Danilo Gallinari’s mid-level salary could be used to help match salaries and facilitate a trade. Payton Pritchard could intrigue teams with his shotmaking ability as the Celtics haven’t been able to play him as much due to their loaded guard rotation.
But Stevens also doesn’t want to potentially mess up a good thing that team’s good going for them right now, either.
“This [group] has as much camaraderie and togetherness as any I’ve been around, certainly at the professional level,” Stevens said. “I think they really like each other, I think it’s a really good character group. I see a lot of when guys have a tough game, guys have a tough day, there’s just a lot of support within this building for them, and I like that.”
The Celtics have four games left on their homestand, which takes them through the end of 2022, before hitting the road for a four-game road trip to begin 2023.
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