Monday marked a fresh beginning for the Boston Celtics, as the 2021-22 roster gathered all together for the first time at Media Day in Canton, Massachusetts to tip off a new era of Celtics basketball.
A large portion of Boston’s young core remains intact from last season, bringing back starters Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart, Jayson Tatum, and Robert Williams. However, the team has loaded up its depth chart with established veterans, including some fresh faces and some familiar faces from the past, along with an entirely new coaching staff headed by Ime Udoka.
Such change has sparked excitement among the players as they prepare to head into training camp at the Auerbach Center Tuesday morning.
“This is a new team, a new head coach,” said Brown, who is about to enter his sixth NBA season. “We’ve got new people in the weight room, we got old people back in the staff. It’s just a new look in general for the whole organization. It’s more diverse, so I’m excited and optimistic that as we continue to change the culture on the court and off the court, that we continue to just get better as individuals, we continue to strive to make Boston proud, and we win some games in the meantime. I think that’s what it all comes down to. I think that we will. I’m excited. And I’m looking forward to it.”
Brown is also looking forward to seeing what this team can do now that it is completely healthy after having a full offseason to rest, unlike last season when the team had less than two months to recover following its NBA Bubble experience in Orlando.
“Being able to have time this year going into next season rather than last season when we didn't have any time,” Brown recalled. “It was just like basketball for a year straight, so it was tough. It was tough from a mental-engagement standpoint, from a physical standpoint, we had injuries, protocols, et cetera.
As a result, the Celtics had difficulty putting forth a consistent product. They finished 41-41 in the regular season and got bounced out of the first round of the Playoffs by the Brooklyn Nets.
However, that’s all in the past, especially now with this new era underway.
“The beauty about the NBA is that you’ve got another game, another season, another year to redeem yourself,” said Smart. “We understand that things didn’t go as planned as well for us (last season). Everybody had things they were dealing with personally on and off the court. For us, it’s just starting fresh, starting over, kind of rebuilding that mentality that we know we need to have, that we have had over the years.”
In order to rebuild the tough-minded mentality that Smart was referencing, the C’s needed to make some roster changes. And that’s the task Brad Stevens took care of during his first offseason as President of Basketball Operations.
One of Stevens’ first moves was hiring a reputable coach in Udoka, a long-time NBA assistant whom many of the Celtics players have already played for and have respect for because of his personable, yet hard-nosed coaching style. Udoka then hired several assistants who each excel in relationship building, of which “we've already seen taking shape this summer,” he says.
The Celtics will also be taking on the shape of a more experienced team, as one of Stevens’ main focuses was to bring several veteran players on board. He brought back former Celtics bigs Al Horford and Enes Kanter to help man the frontcourt alongside Robert Williams, and then he brought in a tenacious backcourt tandem of Josh Richardson and Dennis Schroder. Combined, those four newcomers bring 38 seasons of NBA experience to the table.
Smart, now entering his eighth season with the C’s, believes that “having that leadership with guys who are veterans and who have been put to the test a lot more than the younger guys, it’s always good to have the older guys there who have been through it, who know what it takes, who know what they are going to have to endure for a season to get to where they want to go. So for that aspect, we’re excited about it.”
Those new(ish) guys are excited to start fresh as well.
“I'm just happy to be back here,” said Horford. “And looking at the group that we have, I'm even more excited than before. I've been telling the guys, I can't wait till tomorrow. That's everything that is on my mind – tomorrow; get to tomorrow and get that first practice going.”
Some of the guys have already begun working out together in preparation for training camp, and Tatum has liked what he has seen so far.
“I’m excited about everyone else’s development, about the work they put in this offseason,” said the two-time All-Star, who put on some noticeable muscle over the summer. “Everybody’s been looking really good in the gym. It’s a good feeling. Everybody is just pretty upbeat and ready to get started.”
Ready to get started in a new era of Celtics basketball.
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