If you thought things weren’t going well in the Boston Celtics locker room before today, you were probably right. NBA Insider Adrian Wojnarowski reports that the Celtics held a players-only meeting on Thursday, November 3, before their game against the Orlando Magic.
Boston did, eventually, beat Orlando, allowing just 79 points.
“They had a players-only meeting, and Marcus Smart, Jayson Tatum, and Jaylen Brown did talk about the collapse against the Bulls and Smart’s comments about those two not passing the ball at times,” Wojnarowski said. “It was emotional at times, but in the end, perhaps not a terribly productive meeting, maybe not even beneficial. These are issues with this team, with this group, that have been going on for a while.”
The meeting comes after the Celtics’ second-half collapse against the Chicago Bulls, shortly after Smart discussed the lack of passing from Tatum and Brown down the stretch during his media availability.
It would seem that Ime Udoka has inherited a Celtics team that is still haunted by seasons past, something which Wojnarowski touches on towards the end of his segment discussing the Celtics. “Now at 2-5, and playing the Magic tonight, Ime Udoka the first-year Boston head coach, this is a situation he has to address and help the team work through, the way that Brad Stevens did, and it haunted his regime, especially near the end last season,” Woj reported.
Udoka, for his part, disputed the “players-only meeting” characterization, saying that the players gathered for dinner for about a half-hour, a meal that was scheduled “way before anything happened,” he said.
The Celtics Slow Start is Fueling the Fire
The Celtics’ only two wins this season are against the Houston Rockets and Charlotte Hornets, while the team has fallen to the New York Knicks, Washington Wizards (twice), Toronto Raptors, and Chicago Bulls.
Issues with the team’s offensive strategy, primarily based on single-screen actions and isolation play, and their inability to successfully execute Udoka’s switch everything defensive scheme, have exacerbated the media pressure on the team.
These problems aren’t new to this season, and they’re reminiscent of issues that have plighted the Celtics since their run to the Eastern Conference Finals during the 2019-20 NBA Orlando bubble.
One would have hoped that the roster moves made during the offseason would go some way to quelling these locker-room chemistry issues, but currently, nothing appears to have changed.
NBA Gossip could be a Factor
Jackie MacMullan recently joined NBC Sports Boston to discuss the Celtics and described the league as “one of the great gossip leagues of all time.”
“We all love to gossip, and that’s what everybody is gossiping about right now: Can these two play together? I think there’s still time, they’re both very young, it’s got to happen soon, but I think it is possible for them to enhance on another,” MacMullan said, “You’re going to take a really deep breath, to go trade Jayson Tatum or Jaylen Brown, because I’m telling you, those are rare offensive talents.”
Of course, the Celtics issues are far more profound than their star wing duo, but when you’re at the head of the table, you take the brunt of the scrutiny; such is life. Yet, a players-only meeting at this early juncture of the season is a concerning turn of events.
They say winning solves everything, and with their record currently at 3-5 (following their win against the Magic), the Celtics will need to do a lot of it in the coming weeks to dampen the external noise.