The Boston Celtics went from NBA championship favorites to a team in disarray almost overnight

The Boston Celtics went from NBA championship favorites to a team in disarray almost overnight

The Boston Celtics should be flying high for the 2022-23 season. After finishing two wins short of last year’s championship, they were seen as favorites to win the 2023 title all summer. Now, as training camp is about to begin, they have become a team in disarray.

Ime Udoka’s year-long suspension for having an inappropriate, intimate, consensual relationship with a female Celtics staff member — Celtics majority owner Wyc Grousbeck called Friday “a volume of violations” — pulled the rug out from under the entire of the organism.

It’s been bad news for the Celtics for the past three weeks. Newly acquired Danilo Gallinari tore his ACL. Earlier this week it was announced that Robert Williams III will undergo a second surgery on his left knee that will reportedly sideline him for four to six weeks, meaning he will start the season in street clothes.

Williams tore the meniscus in the same knee at the end of last season and then battled through the pain in the playoffs, though he still missed seven postseason games. Is it possible he did more damage playing on a knee that wasn’t fully healed? This latest “cleanup” process will be the end or the end for Williams, who has had quite a long injury history in his short career.

Boston certainly isn’t hoping. Williams is a legitimate Defensive Player of the Year candidate and a major rim-rolling weapon. Hits the offensive glass. He has top DeAndre Jordan chops and don’t let yourself forget how truly awesome Jordan was with the Clippers.

Hanging in the background, does Jaylen Brown bear any ill will toward the Celtics for putting his name in the trade rumor pot this summer? Brad Stevens noted his open dialogue with Brown, who is certainly no stranger to trade talk. But you have to think that Brown would have thought he had reached a level with the organization where he could feel more secure in his position.

It’s not a big deal. It’s just another one of a bunch of possible paper cuts that led to the hollow trauma that is Udoka’s behavior and subsequent post. On Friday, Stevens, sitting next to Grousebeck for a press conference he didn’t want to attend, indicated that Celtics assistant coach Joe Majula will take over for Udoka on an interim basis.

Mazzulla’s appointment comes with its own level of controversy. In 2009, Mazzulla was arrested and charged with domestic battery after he allegedly grabbed a woman by the throat and choked her in a bar while he was a college student and basketball player in West Virginia.

Stevens responded to those accusations on Friday, saying that Mazzula is “110 percent responsible” for his past actions, but that he, meaning Stevens, “believes[s] strongly that it probably formed [Mazzulla] to who he is today in a very good way.”

I’m not here to be the moral police. Mazzulla legally settled these situations. People can make mistakes and learn from them. But this is obviously, and rightfully so, going to be a major talking point moving forward. Perspective matters. A team that suspends a coach for inappropriate behavior with a woman replaces him with another coach who allegedly choked a woman.

You’ll always hear teams and players talk about not being distracted, and the Celtics, already mired in a PR mess, just added another one to their plate. Apparently they think Mazzulla is worth the headache. Stevens spoke quite glowingly of his ability to “galvanize a room”.

If Mazzulla is any good, the questions about whether he is actually in line to replace Udoka for good will grow louder throughout the season. Maybe the plan is to part ways with Udoka for good anyway. Either way, none of this is going away. The Celtics are in crisis mode. This is an unprecedented situation. They’re still a very good team waiting to compete for a title, but there’s no way to say they haven’t been affected by all of this. Whether they can overcome it, well, that’s the challenge.

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