Are there big changes coming to the Celtics?
In NBA history, 149 teams have fallen behind 0-3 in a best-of-seven series, and not one has ever come back and advanced. To be clear, talent-wise, this Celtics team is very capable of winning four in a row. They have arguably the most talented roster in the league, but given their current state and how they just quit in Game 3, it’s tough to have any optimism that this team will be the first to buck that trend.
So, what’s next?
If you thought last offseason was dramatic, buckle up, because there will be plenty of questions facing Brad Stevens and his team this summer. Let’s take a look just at the two biggest decisions Stevens and Celtics ownership will have to make this summer:
What’s next for Joe Mazzulla?
Make no mistake about it, losing your head coach just five days before the start of training camp is an extremely difficult position to be thrown into -- for both Stevens and Joe Mazzulla -- and it shouldn’t go unnoticed how well they handled all the madness at the beginning of the season.
Naturally, a rookie head coach is going to be under the spotlight, especially when the coach he is replacing brought the team to the NBA Finals in his first season with the organization. Despite the regular-season success, Mazzulla was heavily scrutinized throughout the duration of the season, as he greatly benefited from having one the NBA’s most talented rosters.
One thing this postseason, especially this series with the Heat, has taught us is Mazzulla is not ready to be a head coach in the NBA. From his game management, especially late in games, to his rotations, and his unique timeout strategy, Mazzulla has put this team in some bad positions.
In a way, Stevens throwing Mazzulla in as head coach feels similar to Bill Belichick throwing Matt Patricia into the fire as the Patriots’ offensive coordinator. It’s worth noting that at just 34 years old, which is very young for an NBA head coach, Mazzulla’s only head coaching experience was at Division II Fairmont State.
Again, Stevens was thrown into an incredibly tough situation with the Udoka suspension, but he made a mistake going with Mazzulla, who was simply just not ready. Of course, hindsight is 20/20, but the real man for the job was Damon Stoudamire, who left the organization in March, signing a deal to become the head coach at Georgia Tech.
Not only is Stoudamire more experienced, but he also had a career as a former player, which is something the Celtics especially seemed to respect about Udoka a season ago.
Now the Celtics find themselves in a difficult situation. Between the comments made from players and their contradictory views to those of their head coach, it feels like Mazzulla has lost this Celtics locker room, which will make it incredibly hard to bring him back despite Stevens’ ample belief in the first-year head coach.
At the end of the day, it’s a player-driven league, and there is a very clear disconnect between Mazzulla and the players. It’s hard to imagine Mazzulla will be back on the Celtics’ sideline next season after the way they have unraveled this postseason, which means Stevens will likely be tasked with finding his third head coach in just three years as the President of Basketball Operations of the Celtics.
Will Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown both get the supermax?
There are going to be many roster questions that face the Celtics this offseason, but arguably none bigger than how they handle the supermax contracts Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown are set to receive.
With Tatum and Brown both being named to an All-NBA team, they are both now eligible for supermax deals. Brown is eligible to sign a five-year, $295 million contract extension this summer, while Tatum will be eligible for a five-year, $318 million deal next offseason.
While the Jays have established themselves as arguably the best duo in the league, they have failed to get it done in the postseason. Assuming this is the end for this season, this Celtics core has now been to five Eastern Conference Finals in the last seven years, and have made it over the hump just once, and often struggled to get things going simultaneously this season.
There is obviously a strong case for not breaking up this duo, especially since both are still in their mid-20s, but it would be completely logical if Stevens and Celtics ownership aren’t dead set on offering both of them a supermax contract, seeing as it would cost the team $613 million dollars to keep the duo together. When considering offering both of them a supermax, the lack of success has to be front of mind for Celtics ownership.
It feels like every offseason we stumble upon the conversation of breaking up this duo, and that conversation could be front and center again this offseason, especially given their postseason struggles.