BOSTON — There was hope that the Celtics were going to take the next step this year after last season’s incredible run to the NBA Finals. But it’s off to a rocky start before the team has even hit the floor.
The Celtics are just under a month away from playing a real game. The team hasn’t even held its media day festivities ahead of what was supposed to be another promising season. (That will be quite the circus on Monday.) Yet here we are, in late September, already wondering how the team is going to overcome some massive adversity.
We don’t yet know how long Boston will be without head coach Ime Udoka, who is facing what could be a lengthy suspension by the team for reportedly having “an intimate and consensual relationship” with a female staff member. That goes against team rules, and Udoka is going to be punished for it.
Whether it’s 10 games, half of a season, or the full season — as has been reported as a strong possibility — this is a massive hit to the Boston Celtics. Not just on the floor, but from a PR standpoint. It’s a distraction that the team really shouldn’t have to deal with as they look to take that next leap.
Wyc Grousbeck pumping the brakes on the hype train surrounding the team last week is seen in a whole different light now. In a period when the team should be focusing on itself, it’s now scrambling to save face and find a new — what we believe is temporary — leader on the bench.
Udoka’s top assistant from last year, Will Hardy, has his own gig in Utah. Joe Mazzulla, a 34-year-old Johnston, Rhode Island native who has been an assistant in Boston since 2019, has been reported as the likeliest candidate to take over.
This is not what we should be focusing on a week away from training camp.
Following the team’s six-game loss to the Warriors in the Finals, the Celtics had seemingly done everything right to come back even stronger this year. Brad Stevens bolstered the bench by adding Malcolm Brogdon and Danilo Gallinari. The C’s even held it all together — we think — despite a rash of Kevin Durant trade rumors.
Then Gallinari was lost for the year. On Tuesday, it was announced that Robert Williams will likely miss the start of the season because he needs some more surgery on his knee.
The team should have been able to bounce back from both of those. Losing its head coach is a whole different animal.
The Celtics overcame loads of adversity last season, thanks in large part to Udoka’s leadership. That leader is now facing a season-long suspension for doing something he shouldn’t have been doing. It’s put a really dark cloud over the team before the season had a chance to even begin.