Joe Mazzulla

Monty Williams, Joe Mazzulla Named Coaches Of The Month

Suns head coach Monty Williams and Celtics interim head coach Joe Mazzulla have been named the NBA’s coaches of the month for the Western and Eastern Conferences, respectively, the league announced (via Twitter).

As previously mentioned, the NBA combined the games played in October and November for its initial monthly awards.

Williams, the reigning Coach of the Year, has led Phoenix to six straight victories and the West’s top seed thus far at 15-6. The Suns held the league’s top overall record (64-18) during the 2021/22 regular season and were expected to be good again in ’22/23, but Williams’ coaching certainly deserves recognition.

Phoenix currently has multiple key players sidelined — veteran forward Jae Crowder has yet to play this season as the Suns are trying to trade him; his replacement in the starting lineup, Cameron Johnson, underwent meniscus surgery and has only played eight games; and 12-time All-Star point guard Chris Paul will miss his 12th consecutive game on Friday with right heel soreness (Twitter link via Gerald Bourguet of PHNX Sports). Reserve guard Landry Shamet also missed seven games while in the concussion protocols, but returned to action last week.

Mazzulla, the youngest head coach in the league at 34 years old, has guided Boston to the league’s best record at 18-4. The Celtics hold the No. 1 seed in the East, two games ahead of the 15-5 Bucks.

Mazzulla’s NBA debut as a head coach has been quite impressive. In addition to navigating the drama surrounding the organization in the wake of head coach Ime Udoka‘s suspension prior to the season, big man Robert Williams and free agent addition Danilo Gallinari have yet to play in 2022/23. Williams is reportedly targeting a return by Christmas following a second knee surgery in 2022, but Gallinari will likely miss the entire season with a torn ACL.

Though he currently has an interim tag, Mazzulla is expected to eventually have the interim designation removed and sign a long-term contract to remain head coach of the Celtics — the only question is when, not if.

According to the NBA, the other coaching nominees in the West were Chauncey Billups, Mike Brown, Willie Green, Will Hardy, Taylor Jenkins and Michael Malone, while J.B. Bickerstaff, Mike Budenholzer and Rick Carlisle were nominated in the East.

Eastern Notes: Simmons, Smart, Heat Injuries, Knicks

Ben Simmons will miss his sixth game this season on Wednesday due to a sore left knee. Nets point guard Kyrie Irving said Simmons’ absences impact the club in many ways, Brian Lewis of the New York Post writes.

“When he’s not out there we don’t have our point forward, our point guard, being able to initiate easy opportunities, push the ball in transition; so we’ll definitely miss him in the lineup,” Irving said. “Hopefully he comes back [soon], but if he’s dealing with it we just want him to get as healthy as possible and we’ll figure it out.”

We have more from the Eastern Conference:

  • In Joe Mazzulla, Celtics guard Marcus Smart feels he has a head coach that fully trusts him, he told Steve Bulpett of “I think once Coach put his trust in me, we’ve seen how it’s allowed me to blossom and this team to blossom,” Smart said. “So just having a coach that can believe in you and allow you to run the team like he needs you to, that means everything. And then on top of that him being a point guard, that’s just an extra bonus, because he understands the pressure that I have to go through as the point guard in making everybody else happy and sacrificing your own for the team.”
  • The Heat released their injury report for Wednesday’s game and there’s no less than a dozen names on the list heading into their showdown with the Celtics, Anthony Chiang of the Miami Herald tweets. Jimmy Butler, Victor Oladipo and Omer Yurtseven are listed as out, while Nikola Jovic, Dewayne Dedmon, Gabe Vincent, Caleb Martin, Tyler Herro, Haywood Highsmith and Duncan Robinson received the questionable tag. Two other players are probable.
  • The most realistic path to improvement for the Knicks is still the trade route, Ian Begley of SNY TV opines. They’ll continue to seek out top talent and have a surplus of draft picks and some young players to offer teams. Stuck in mediocrity, the only question is whether they’ll make a big move before the trade deadline or wait until the offseason.

Celtics Notes: Horford, G. Williams, Brown, Mazzulla

Al Horford has already left the Celtics once for more money and there’s a chance it might happen again next summer, writes Sean Deveney of Heavy. The 37-year-old Horford said this week that he’d like to play another two or three seasons, so he’ll be looking for a contract that covers that time. Whether that keeps him in Boston will depend on the salary he’s willing to accept.

Deveney talked to a Western Conference executive who points out that most of the teams that will have cap room in 2023 are young and aren’t likely to have interest in a player nearing 40. The unidentified executive expects Horford to land a two-year contract worth between $20-25MM, while another league source tells Deveney that Horford may get a three-year deal in the $40-42MM range with the final year as a partial guarantee or a player option.

An Eastern Conference executive believes the Celtics’ offer to Horford will depend on how much they have to pay to keep Grant Williams, who is headed for restricted free agency.

“Right now, you’re paying those guys $30MM,” the executive said. “They don’t want to add a bunch of salary, so if you can keep them below $30MM in starting money next year, it is not a bad situation. Other guys are going up, so you’d like to save where you can. If you start Williams at $16-17MM or so, you can go to $11-12MM for Al and still keep yourself around $180MM in payroll. They want both of those guys around so they have to think about them as a sliding scale.”

There’s more on the Celtics:

  • Boston has the league’s best record at 13-3 and has figured out how to win with limited production from Jayson Tatum, notes Souichi Terada of MassLive. The Celtics posted back-to-back wins over the Hawks and Pelicans this week with Tatum limited to 19 points in each game on subpar shooting. Derrick White and Payton Pritchard have filled in with Malcolm Brogdon and Marcus Smart hurt, and the team is also getting valuable bench minutes from Williams, Sam Hauser and Luke Kornet.
  • Jaylen Brown credits the success to trust from new head coach Joe Mazzulla, per Brian Robb of MassLive. Whenever the Celtics hit a rough patch, Mazzulla usually prefers to let the players work through it rather than calling a timeout. “It challenges us for not only the situation at hand in front of us but to be better down the line,” Brown said. “We’ve been in the NBA long enough to know how to get to our spots and how to correct some of our mistakes. We have a poised team so that’s a lot of trust from our head coach that he instills in our players and us to figure it out. To be honest, that’s what you want as a player. You want that relationship with your head coach that he’ll trust you out there that you’ll figure it out.”
  • With nine straight wins, the Celtics appear to have solved their crunch-time rotation questions, according to Jared Weiss of The Athletic. Tatum’s ability to fill multiple roles makes the team hard to defend with the game on the line, Weiss adds.

Joe Mazzulla Expected To Remain Celtics’ Head Coach Beyond 2022/23

Joe Mazzulla is expected to have his interim tag removed and sign a long-term contract to remain head coach of the Celtics, supplanting the suspended Ime Udoka, but it may not occur until after the 2022/23 season ends, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported (video link) on SportsCenter on Wednesday (hat tip to RealGM).

Everything is aligned and in place for Joe Mazzulla to be the long-term coach for the Boston Celtics, except for one thing: Ime Udoka is technically still the head coach of the Boston Celtics, on suspension,” said Wojnarowski. “For all intents and purposes, he has coached his last game in Boston. This is uncharted territory, certainly. Unless Ime Udoka takes another job this season elsewhere, it still may be an interim label until the end of the year.

Mazzulla has handled this very well. He has a locker room of key players who were very fond of Udoka and still very fond of him. (Mazzulla) has certainly navigated that. He had his own relationships. You have seen him command the respect of this group, but how this team has performed. Continuing at a very high level.

There’s every indication that interim status will eventually leave and he’ll be on a long-term deal as the Celtics’ coach, but it may not be until after the season.”

While this may have been surprising news prior to the season considering Udoka led the Celtics to the NBA Finals as a first-time head coach in ’21/22, as Wojnarowski noted, Boston hasn’t missed a beat under Mazzulla, currently sporting the NBA’s best record at 12-3. The Celtics have the No. 1 ranked offense and best net rating (plus-7.7) in the league thus far, per

Mazzulla was an assistant with the Celtics for three seasons prior to being named interim head coach. At 34 years old, he’s the youngest head coach in the NBA (he’s six months younger than Jazz head coach Will Hardy, who is also 34).

In addition to being seemingly unfazed by the controversy of Udoka’s suspension, Mazzulla has navigated long-term injuries to free agent acquisition Danilo Gallinari (offseason torn ACL) and starting big man Robert Williams (offseason knee surgery). Both players have yet to play this season, with Gallinari likely to miss the entire ’22/23 season.

Speaking of Williams, Abby Chin of NBC Sports Boston reported last night (via Twitter) that the big man hasn’t experienced any setbacks during his recovery process and has been cleared for non-contact work. Williams told Chin that his return timeline remains unchanged.

The Celtics announced that Williams would miss eight-to-12 weeks in late September, so that’s the timeline he’s referring to, though a report last month indicated he might be out longer than that after receiving a PRP injection. Either way, it’s an encouraging sign for Williams that things appear to be on track after March meniscus surgery limited him during last season’s playoff run.

Celtics Notes: Tatum, Brogdon, Mazzulla, Offense

Jayson Tatum has certainly placed himself firmly in the Most Valuable Player discussion while averaging 32.3 points per game so far this season. The Celtics forward told Yahoo Sports’ Vince Goodwill he wants people to think of him as an MVP-level performer.

“As a kid, was one of my dreams winning MVP? Sure,” Tatum said. “If it happened, it would be a dream come true. But it wasn’t, like, ‘Come back, win MVP.’ It’s like, ‘Come back, get to the championship.’”

We have more on the Celtics:

  • Malcolm Brogdon hasn’t played since Wednesday and the point guard will remain out on Monday due to right hamstring tightness, Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman tweets. Brogdon is averaging 13.7 points, 3.8 rebounds and 3.5 assists per night in his first season with Boston.
  • Joe Mazzulla was thrust into a difficult situation when the team suspended head coach Ime Udoka for a season. The Boston’s Globe Gary Washburn believes that Muzzulla has handled it so well that he deserves to have the interim tag removed. Not only has the team thrived with him at the helm, he has approached the job with the kind of humility and respect it deserves, Washburn notes.
  • The Celtics entered Monday’s action ranked first in points per game and second in field goal percentage. Ethan Fuller of the Basketball News takes a closer look at why the team’s offense has been so efficient.

Atlantic Notes: Thybulle, Kyrie, Reddish, Mazzulla

Given his offensive shortcomings, it was understandable that Matisse Thybulle wasn’t part of the Sixers‘ regular rotation early in the season, but the team’s defensive woes made it clear he needed to get a shot, Rich Hofmann of The Athletic wrote ahead of Friday’s game in Toronto.

Thybulle got that shot on Friday. After playing just six scoreless minutes in the team’s first five games, the fourth-year wing logged 22 minutes in Philadelphia’s win over the Raptors and held his own on both ends of the court. Thybulle initially passed up on one open three-point opportunity, then had another blocked, but he responded by continuing to shoot and made a pair of attempts from beyond the arc.

“The old me would have folded in that moment,” Thybulle said, according to Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer. “Like you pass up, you get a little shook on your first attempt. On your second attempt, you get blocked. I think the old me folds and isn’t able to show up for those next two shots and make them. So I mean, honestly, to be able to sit here and be proud of myself feels really good. And to sit in the locker room and give myself my flowers and say, ‘Yeah, you did the work and you trusted it and were able to let it come through during the game.'”

It’s a big year for Thybulle, who will be eligible for restricted free agency during the 2023 offseason after not signing a rookie scale extension with the Sixers before the season began.

Here’s more from around the Atlantic:

  • According to Alex Schiffer of The Athletic, Nets owner Joe Tsai and the team have condemned Kyrie Irving‘s social media posts promoting the 2018 film ‘Hebrews to Negroes: Wake Up Black America,’ which is widely considered to be antisemitic, as Jon Blistein of Rolling Stone details. “I’m disappointed that Kyrie appears to support a film based on a book full of antisemitic disinformation,” Tsai tweeted. “I want to sit down and make sure he understands this is hurtful to all of us, and as a man of faith, it is wrong to promote hate based on race, ethnicity or religion.”
  • Cam Reddish hasn’t just been earning regular rotation minutes for the Knicks so far — he has also been part of some of the team’s crunch-time lineups, writes Peter Botte of The New York Post. After playing nearly the full overtime period in Wednesday’s win over Charlotte, Reddish said that his confidence is “sky high,” adding that he thinks he’s “doing a pretty good job trying to find my niche.” The fourth-year forward will be eligible for restricted free agency in 2023.
  • Steve Bulpett of solicited some early opinions on Celtics interim head coach Joe Mazzulla, and the reviews were generally positive. “Joe’s like Ime (Udoka) in the way that he’s not afraid to be straight with guys and go at them when he has to,” a source close to the situation told Bulpett. “But he also knows what went wrong last year and that there’s some basic stuff that needs fixing.” One opposing personnel source did question Mazzulla’s rotation decisions, opining that it’s too early in the season to be leaning so heavily on the team’s top seven or eight players.

Atlantic Notes: Boucher, Achiuwa, Curry, Sixers, Mazzulla

While Chris Boucher would rather have been playing in the Raptors‘ first three games, the veteran forward/center found a silver lining in having to sit out with a hamstring injury, as Doug Smith of The Toronto Star relays.

“To be honest with you, I feel like it was good for me just to see what I can bring to the team, sitting down and watching,” Boucher said on Monday before returning to the Raptors’ lineup in Miami. “If I was playing and we were losing games, I probably wouldn’t see as much.”

Boucher got into quick foul trouble in his season debut on Monday, picking up five fouls in just 12 minutes of action. But he was effective in his limited role, scoring 10 points on 4-of-5 shooting in a Raptors victory.

Here’s more from around the Atlantic:

  • The Raptors got a big night out of Precious Achiuwa against his old team on Monday, as he grabbed 22 rebounds against the Heat. While the team isn’t expecting regular 22-rebound nights from Achiuwa, head coach Nick Nurse wants to see him produce more consistently. “I always say you can play good, like one out of three games, right? It’s got to get bumped up to two out of four, then three out of five,” Nurse said, per Doug Smith of The Toronto Star. “No one is going to play great every night but we got to start making some progression where there’s some consistency there.”
  • Nets sharpshooter Seth Curry, who continues to work his way back from offseason ankle surgery, is getting closer to making his season debut, according to head coach Steve Nash. “(Curry) traveled and we’re just monitoring him still. He’s doing well,” Nash said on Monday, per Brian Lewis of The New York Post. “I’d say he’s out for Wednesday, but we’ll see whether Thursday, Saturday or the subsequent games. It’s coming soon.”
  • After averaging an NBA-low 11.3 bench points in their first three games (all losses), the Sixers got 36 points from their reserves in their first win of the season over Indiana on Monday, as Joel Embiid and James Harden worked to get the bench players involved, writes Rich Hofmann of The Athletic.
  • In an in-depth profile, Chris Mannix of takes a closer look at Celtics interim head coach Joe Mazzulla, including revisiting his arrests as a student at West Virginia in 2008 and 2009. “I’m not perfect,” Mazzulla said. “I made the mistakes. I’ve worked to reinvent myself. I know who I am and I know the mistakes that I made. It’s important to be secure about that if you want to be authentic with people.””

Celtics Notes: Mazzulla, Brogdon, Vonleh, Pritchard

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.

Atlantic Notes: Thybulle, Morey, Siakam, VanVleet, Mazzulla

Sixers swingman Matisse Thybulle wasn’t actively involved in extension negotiations with the team leading up to the season, letting his representatives handle those discussions, as Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer writes. Thybulle, who didn’t sign a new deal by Monday’s deadline and is now on track to reach restricted free agency in 2023, is OK with playing out his contract year.

“It’s not my negotiations,” he told Pompey. “So I trust my agents. If it wasn’t the right time, then I trust that it will be when we get to the next offseason.”

Here’s more from around the Atlantic:

  • In a fascinating profile for The Ringer, Kevin O’Connor takes a deep dive into Daryl Morey, sharing several behind-the-scenes anecdotes about the Sixers‘ president of basketball operations and examining his ongoing quest for a championship. Within the story, star center Joel Embiid takes a veiled shot at former 76ers executive Bryan Colangelo, telling O’Connor, “Since I’ve been here, all of the GMs were really smart, except one.”
  • The Raptors didn’t work out extensions this offseason with either Pascal Siakam or Fred VanVleet, prompting Michael Grange of to wonder if the team will end up regretting that, given the NBA’s rapidly rising salary cap. While Siakam can’t sign a new deal until next July now that Monday’s deadline has passed, VanVleet remains eligible for an in-season extension (if he declines his 2023/24 player option), but that seems like a long shot.
  • Joe Mazzulla, thrust into the Celtics‘ head coaching job less than a month ago after Ime Udoka was suspended for the season, looked ready for the big stage in Boston’s opening night victory over Philadelphia, writes Jared Weiss of The Athletic. “From the start of the game, his confidence, you could see, is oozing out,” guard Marcus Smart said. “Usually, most coaches are trying to figure things out, and he comes right in like he’s doing it for years.” Jaylen Brown agreed with Smart’s assessment: “Joe is tough as nails. Even when in the midst of everything, all the turmoil, when you looked into his eyes, you could tell he was ready.”

Celtics Notes: G. Williams, Udoka, Christian, Hauser

After Larry Nance Jr. agreed to a two-year, $21MM extension with New Orleans, Michael Scotto of HoopsHype talked to four NBA executives who expect Celtics forward Grant Williams to command in the range of $12-13MM per year on his own long-term deal.

However, speaking to Scotto on the HoopsHype podcast, Jared Weiss of The Athletic suggested that he wouldn’t accept less than $15MM annually on a rookie scale extension if he were Williams.

As Weiss observes, the fourth-year forward projects to have a significant role in the Celtics’ rotation with Danilo Gallinari likely out for the season, and – unlike Nance – Williams is still just 23 years old and has plenty of time to continue improving.

According to Scotto, Williams has dropped from about 280 pounds to 265, and seems poised to have a big year. If that’s the case, he could potentially exceed $15MM per year as a restricted free agent next summer should he forgo an extension before this year’s October 17 deadline.

Here’s more on the Celtics:

  • On that same HoopsHype podcast, Scotto said he spoke to four executives about the Ime Udoka situation, and all four expressed skepticism that Udoka will ever coach the Celtics again.
  • As the Celtics consider adding another assistant to fortify interim coach Joe Mazzulla‘s staff, one candidate to keep an eye on is Jarrell Christian, who coached the Maine Celtics last season, says Scotto. Christian has since been named Maine’s general manager, but that typically hasn’t been a full-time position, Weiss notes, with various members of the Celtics’ scouting department filling that role in past seasons.
  • Even after a nightmarish September in Boston, John Hollinger of The Athletic is bullish on the Celtics’ chances of being one of the NBA’s best teams, projecting them to win 55 games and claim the No. 1 seed in the East. However, Hollinger believes the C’s will probably need a “peak” version of Robert Williams to make it back to the NBA Finals.
  • While Jayson Tatum and Sam Hauser may have a good-natured difference of opinions over which player is the better three-point shooter, Tatum praised his fellow forward and stressed Hauser’s importance after Wednesday’s game. “I tell him all the time: If people left me that wide open and all I had to do was catch-and-shoot, I would make a lot more shots as well. So I tell Sam he should send me a thank you card for being on the floor together,” Tatum joked after Hauser made 8-of-13 threes in his first two preseason appearances. “Sam is obviously a great shooter and his game has come a long way. I’m happy for him. I’m happy he’s getting these opportunities, and he’s obviously making the most out of it. We’re going to need him.”