Joe Mazzulla has a focus on the past to help the Celtics in the present
As the Boston Celtics begin their training camp just days after swinging a major trade for guard Jrue Holiday, there’s a lot of focus on the future of the team. However as he prepares his team for the road ahead, head coach Joe Mazzulla has at least some of his focus on the past, in order to help the team in the present.
During media availability at Celtics training camp on Wednesday, Mazzulla was asked about Celtics legend and Hall of Famer Paul Pierce attending practice. Mazzulla told reporters he reached out to all former Celtics to ask them to come back and be around the team.
“I sent an email out to all the former Celtic players because I felt like it’s important that we share in this experience together,” Mazzulla shared. “They started the tradition, they kept it going, and now it’s our responsibility as an organization to keep it alive.”
“When you don’t see them all the time, you don’t get that connection to the past. And the only past we have is the banners alone. The past should be the banners, but it should be the people,” he continued. “So I thought it was extremely important that any and every Celtic is welcome to a practice or a game so we can built that brotherhood of what we are.”
Mazzulla doesn’t plan on making this a rarity either. “It could have a negative effect if we don’t do it all the time, because then it’s like we’re making it about the past and that one guy,” he explained. “But if we normalize it, and there’s people around all the time – not just at a Game 7, not just at a first playoff game – then it becomes like we’re doing this together. So I wanted to break that barrier of ‘once in a while’ and – all the time, any time. Whether it’s on the team plane, team dinner, we should have that open environment.”
History has always been important to the Boston Celtics organization. Capitalizing on that history makes sense now more than ever.
First off, most of the roster is pretty new to the franchise. After Jaylen Brown (drafted in 2016) and Jayson Tatum (drafted in 2017), the third longest-tenured player currently on the roster is Payton Pritchard, who was drafted in 2020. 13 of the 19 players currently on the roster were added to the team since the start of the last offseason. Among the coaches, only Mazzulla has been with the team longer than Pritchard.
Plus, while the Celtics’ franchise as a whole certainly has a championship history – as Mazzulla referenced with the banners – this current roster doesn’t have much experience in that regard. Only six players currently on the roster – Brown, Tatum, Pritchard, Al Horford, Luke Kornet, and Sam Hauser, were on the team that went to the Finals in 2022. Meanwhile, Holiday is the only player on the roster to have won a championship, doing so with the Milwaukee Bucks in 2021. Having individuals with a championship pedigree and knows what it takes to win a title – whether it be players from the 2008 ‘Big Three’ team or the dominant teams from the first 16 banners – around this year’s team should be a valuable asset.
Which former players will show up? Pierce has been a regular around the team quite a bit in recent years, so it’s no surprise he’s one of the first to show up this year. Since having his number retired by the organization in 2022, Kevin Garnett has been around quite a bit as well. Others such as Cedric Maxwell, Brian Scalabrine, and Eddie House are already around in a media capacity. There are also two former Celtics on Mazzulla’s coaching staff in Sam Cassell and Phil Pressey.
Beyond that, the invitation is now out there. Who will respond? It will be fun to see what familiar faces pop up around the Auerbach Center and TD Garden throughout this season.