The Celtics reached the NBA Finals in 2022 and fell one game short of returning last season, but management decided changes were needed after the playoff loss to the Heat, co-owner Wyc Grousbeck said in an interview with Adam Himmelsbach of The Boston Globe.
Grousbeck characterized the last two seasons as “missed opportunities,” even though he admitted his team lost to two good opponents. Following the playoffs, he had a meeting with president of basketball operations Brad Stevens and head coach Joe Mazzulla in which they decided to explore chances to revamp the roster. That led to a three-team trade in late June that brought Kristaps Porzingis to Boston.
“The general tone was, how do we take this energy we’re feeling right now that was built up over having two good seasons, but then didn’t get all the way,” Grousbeck said. “The whole point is, how do we get to banner 18? If we’d all agreed we should keep things the same, that would have been fine. But the idea of bringing in another talented big popped up early in the conversation, and we ended up executing on that idea.”
They decided to focus on Porzingis, who was facing a decision on a $36MM player option after a productive season with the Wizards. Porzingis had other interested teams if he had opted for free agency, but Grousbeck said he was eager to join the Celtics.
“He is a committed and now seasoned and effective player. He’s a real force. I’m really impressed with his commitment to being part of a winning Celtics team,” Grousbeck said. “I met with him when he came up for the press conference and spent some real time with him, and he’s so happy to be here. He’s so ready to shine at this stage of his career. But he sees a team concept, not the KP show. He’s continually improved over his career, and he thinks this is his prime. But he’s about the team, his teammates and the banner. He chose us. There were other people, I hear, that wanted him. And he chose us. He wants to be here and he wants to win a ring.”
Grousbeck covers several other topics in the interview, including:
The commitment to Mazzulla, who faced criticism in the playoffs in his first year running the team:
“If Joe had done a poor job, I would have thought about replacing him, but he did a very good job. He took us within one game of the best record in the league and then one game of being in the Finals, as a rookie coach. So I’m comfortable and happy to have Joe as head coach.”
The Celtics’ willingness to spend despite restrictions in the new Collective Bargaining Agreement:
“The league doesn’t allow us to comment on the details of the CBA, but having said that, we’re obviously all in, with the record contract for Jaylen (Brown) and with our payroll this year and in coming years. Eventually, there are basketball penalties for spending, so that will go into the thought process down the road. But at the moment, the best basketball thing we can do is what we’re doing.”
Heading into the future with Brown and Jayson Tatum as franchise cornerstones:
“They’re the best two people I could imagine building a team around. We’ve had them since the beginning. We’ve been very lucky to have them here for their whole careers, and we’re building the team around them. But you add the next eight guys to the list. You take our top 10 and we’ve got a really good team. The focus is naturally on those two because they’re All-NBA players and All-Stars, but I like the whole roster.”