The Boston Celtics announced Thursday that they are officially naming Joe Mazzulla head coach after his time as an interim coach for the suspended Ime Udoka and leading the squad to the best record in the NBA at 42-17. It has also been announced that both sides have agreed to a contract extension although the terms of the deal have not yet been publicized.
None of this could have been predicted.
C/O to Espn.com
In what was a disappointing end to last year's NBA season, the Celtics had themselves a tumultuous offseason. Coming off a Finals appearance and losing to the Golden State Warriors 4-2, the team added free agent Danilo Gallinari and traded for Malcom Brogdon, two pieces that were going to help them in their quest to a ring and get them over the hump. The months ahead of these two moves rained misfortune on the organization. In August, Gallinari went down with a knee injury while playing for Italy in the FIBA World Cup qualifier. In what was later classified as a torn meniscus, the newly added Celtics forward was expected to return in November to make his debut. In September, it was announced that center Robert Williams III will have another surgery on his knee that was bothering him during last year's playoff run and is expected to miss around 4-6 weeks. With two of their promising pieces now both on timetables to return, Celtics fans did not even have time to process their emotions before news broke that their head coach Ime Udoka was going to be suspended by the team. Then in a flash, news broke about all three that would make any Celtics fan's head spin. Now, Williams' timetable for returning will be extended from 4-6 weeks to 8-12. Gallinari had successful ACL surgery, but there is now no timetable for his return. Finally, it was officially announced that Ime Udoka would be suspended for one year with the team and assistant coach Joe Mazzulla would take over on the sidelines. Immediately, the Celtics chances of returning to the Finals plummeted. In what many saw as a guaranteed promising playoff run, found themselves questioning if this team can overcome this adversity.
Despite all this, the Boston Celtics have not missed a beat.
Currently ranking third in offensive rating (116.9) and fourth in defensive rating (110.6), the Celtics look primed to make a deep postseason run just like they were back in July before their luck turned sour.
C/O to Espn.com
Credit goes to everyone in the organization. To the players, who now seem closer as they went through this adversity together and are more aware of what it takes to win a championship. To the front office, spearheaded by general manager and former head coach Brad Stevens whose more underrated moves like acquiring Blake Griffin back in October and trading for Mike Muscala just days ago, just add to the team's already dangerous depth.
Mainly though, the credit goes to Mazzulla. The noise that was surrounding him and now what is his team officially, must have been nearly impossible not to hear. How can he replicate another Finals run? How can he quickly earn the players' respect? Will he constantly feel like he's going back to the bench once the season is over and Udoka comes back? All those questions have been answered through Mazzulla's constant calm demeanor and giving his players his outright trust. After what seemed like a disastrous couple of months during the offseason, Celtics fans can now rest easy. In Mazzulla we trust.
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