The circumstances that made Joe Mazzulla a head coach were unusual, but he’s showing that he’s up to the challenge, writes Brian Robb of MassLive. Friday’s win at Miami gave the Celtics a 2-0 start to their regular season for the first time since Doc Rivers did it in 2009/10.
Mazzulla became the team’s interim leader after Ime Udoka was suspended for the season following an affair with a staff member. Mazzulla has adapted quickly to the job and has Boston looking like title contenders again, even after losing Robert Williams and Danilo Gallinari with injuries.
“The humility of our team is super important,” Mazzulla said. “We have eight guys that can start games and finish games. We have the ability to get different looks, and it makes us very, very good. Credit to our guys, they want to win. They understand that, and they’re willing to do what it takes. We’re grateful for that.”
There’s more on the Celtics:
- The team’s commitment to defense has impressed Malcolm Brogdon, who was acquired from the Pacers in an offseason trade. “I haven’t played on a team like this where one through five, everybody that’s on the floor takes pride in the defensive end. It’s a championship characteristic for sure,” Brogdon said after Friday’s game (video link).
- Noah Vonleh had to battle for a roster spot, but he’s already making his first start tonight, notes A. Sherrod Blakely of Full Court Press. Al Horford is sitting out the second game of a back-to-back due to load management, so the Celtics turned to Vonleh, who’s enjoying the opportunity with his hometown team. “I just want to go out there, continue to help the team, bring energy,” Vonleh said, “… just keep doing the things that help get me on the floor.”
- Payton Pritchard wasn’t used in the first two games, but he remains a valuable part of the roster considering Brogdon’s history of injuries and Marcus Smart‘s reckless style, Steve Bulpett of Heavy states in a mailbag column. Pritchard is still on his rookie contract and he has been effective off the bench during his two seasons in Boston, averaging 6.9 points per game and shooting 41.2% from three-point range, so Bulpett doesn’t expect the Celtics to use him as a trade chip.