The new-look Celtics are closer than ever to an 18th title

Boston Celtics (Photo by Nick Grace/Getty Images)
Boston Celtics (Photo by Nick Grace/Getty Images) /
3 of 4
Celtics. NBA.
Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Boston Celtics (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images) /

The New-Look Celtics

Boston still had all the success, coming up a game short of a Finals return and maintaining a top record in the league throughout the year. The Celtics were one of the few teams in NBA history to be in the top three in both offensive and defensive ratings.

Besides some ignored timeouts that have been regularly animated by recent Boston coaches, the pressure was easy to identify. Having the team’s heart and soul over the two effective figures who thrived in that third option role, elevating the team in White and Brogdon, can be a difficult decision. Like during the plethora of occasions where Smart attempted to play as if he were on the level of the tandem.

In those nine years, Smart had great moments, excelling with the team. However, there were more than enough negative instances late in the game. A strong example many first think of is the Game 7 closeout against Miami in 2022. That Jimmy Butler shot it came down to? Smart was 0-6, closing it out down the stretch to assist on that 11-point coughed-up lead in the remaining minutes ahead of the Butler miss before icing it with free throws.

There were an abundance of glimpses during last season’s underperformance of a championship run, mainly vs. Atlanta and Philadelphia. Potentially, some partial guilt in the end-game decision-making was all tied to Mazzulla’s prematurity. He now has war-like reps under his belt following Boston’s run, as he now has help from beloved 2008 Celtics champ and coach Sam Cassell, with Bucks 2021 title assistant Charles Lee embedding that new philosophy.

Everyone knows about the Celtics’ historic standards. Here’s the thing: In five conference final appearances out of seven years and only making one NBA Final, at some point, change at the helm is needed. It was not going to be those rival outsiders self-proclaimed fairytales of a split coming to the statistically historic duo.

Tatum and Brown take on more appropriate leadership duties, with Brown also nearing a decade and Tatum entering his seventh season. Anyone who viewed Smart as a hurdle towards the tandem’s growth with those late-game common occurrences, even taking more shots than the two at times, that’s out the window. The shackles are now unlocked. All indicating reasoning toward experts around the league labeling the Celtics’ major transition as a ‘home run.’ A golden opportunity.