Celtics united after holding meeting to discuss starting five situation: ‘We just want to win’

Joe Mazzulla has downplayed the importance of who he picks to be in the Celtics’ starting lineup, but the topic was significant enough that the team’s top six players held a meeting last week before the season began to discuss it.

The Celtics have six starting-caliber players in Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Jrue Holiday, Kristaps Porzingis, Derrick White and Al Horford, and they’ve each recognized and embraced that sacrifice will be required among them to reach their ultimate championship goal. The details of the meeting were sparse. Horford was ultimately the first of the group to come off the bench, which was the first time in his Celtics career he did so. He didn’t volunteer to do it, but after the group had a conversation, he accepted the role.

“I’m not saying he lined up, (expletive), like raising his hand excited about it,” Mazzulla said. “But he’s Al, so we’re grateful for him.”

“Al’s a cultural warrior for us. So for a guy of his stature, what he’s done in this league, what he’s done for our team, to be willing to do that for our team is very important and I’m grateful for that and for him. At the same time, it’s not just about him. I think that’s the idea of this whole offseason. This preseason starting thing is like, yeah, Al’s making the initial sacrifice, but everyone’s gonna have to.”

It’s unclear who called for the meeting, but they were glad to hash things out and get on the same page.

“JT told me we was talking and then we went in there we just kind of sat down and talked,” White said. “I mean, I think it was cool and something we can do throughout the year. We all get along, we all want the same thing, so it’s good to get it all out.”

It seems likely that the 37-year-old Horford will be come off the bench for the majority of games this season, but there could be situations where White or Holiday do if Mazzulla wants to go with a double-big lineup.

White joked that he recommended one of their bigger stars come off the bench.

“I voted JT to come off the bench, but it’s all good,” White joked. “At the end of the day, we just want to win and we know what the end goal is. And we’re all well bought in.”

Tatum responded to White’s comment on X: “Told them 1 game this season I’m coming off the bench.”

It’s unclear if Tatum will actually come off the bench once this season – he never has in his career – but the Celtics’ top six certainly seem united in their sacrifice.

“We were just talking about how we all want the same thing,” White said. “Obviously, only five people can start and we all understand that we got a bunch of people that start, so we are just coming together to be like if someone’s got to come off the bench, we’re all willing to do it. Nobody’s gonna be upset or whatever. So whatever the matchup is that night, it is what it is, and we just want to win.”

Honoring Maine

The Celtics paid tribute to the Lewiston, Maine shooting victims in several ways for Friday’s home opener. In addition to holding a moment of silence pregame, the players wore Maine Celtics warmup shirts – the team’s G-League affiliate has been based in Maine since 2009 – and they also had a band honoring Lewison on their jerseys. The coaching staff also wore Maine Celtics gear on the sideline.

Mazzulla, who spent time coaching in Maine, took a few minutes to talk about the tragedy after Thursday’s practice.

“My initial reaction was like, one, there’s people that are hurt by this and they didn’t ask for it and imagine how hard it would be if my wife or children were in that situation,” Mazzulla said. “The second one is, it’s easy two weeks ago to look at a situation that’s really far from us and say we don’t do that. And then something like this happens, it’s humbling because whether it’s domestic or abroad, there are people who are making tough decisions. There are people who are doing things that aren’t what’s best for humanity.

“Regardless of if it’s in America or not, how do we work through that as humans? I think that’s the question that we have to work to answer.”

Cracking down

The NBA implemented a new flopping penalty for this season and the Celtics were involved in two of the first such calls this season in their win over the Knicks on Wednesday. The first came when Kristaps Porzingis was whistled for exaggerating contact in the fourth quarter, and the next one came when they called Jalen Brunson for flopping while he was shooting a 3-pointer later in the period.

However, the league announced Thursday that a flop should not have been called, and that Tatum made contact with Brunson’s foot which would have been a three-point foul. It was a four-point swing in what was ultimately a four-point Celtics win.

Despite the new flopping rule, however, Mazzulla said he has not talked to his team about it.

“It’s whatever, I don’t care,” Mazzulla said.



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