But the Boston brass liked Mazzulla, and his status as a rising star was confirmed when he gave an interview to the Utah Jazz’s coaching opening this summer. That job went to Will Hardy, a Celtics assistant, and Mazola was promoted to a seat position on the Boston crew.
Now, he is in charge. During a press conference to discuss Odoka’s comment Friday, Celtics chief of basketball operations Brad Stevens spoke about his coaching acumen for Mazola. And this is his fourth year with Boston, so the transition should be relatively smooth.
But unlike Odoka, Mazzola has not played in the NBA, at just 34 years old, two years younger than striker Al Horford. He also has a few out-of-court cases to be addressed, most notably his 2009 arrest for domestic battery after allegations he grabbed a woman by the neck in a bar. Stevens said he thoroughly examined Mazola’s situation prior to his appointment as an assistant in 2019, and said Mazola is ready to discuss the incident during Monday’s media day.
There is certainly no guarantee that Odoka will return next year, so Mazola may be testing a long-term contract.
With Stevens building the back end of his camp roster this summer, he’s prioritizing veterans who never thrived with other NBA teams over uncertified young agents looking to prove themselves.
Previous first-round picks such as striker Noah Vonleh (No. 9, 2014), striker Luka Smanic (No. 19, 2019), striker Justin Jackson (No. 15, 2017), and midfielder Mfuundu Kabinjeli (No. 27, 2019) are among those to fight from For the last three on the list, though, Boston will likely keep one open to maintain flexibility.
There is an urgency and an extra opportunity in the front yard now that striker Danilo Gallinari has been out for a year after rupturing his ACL and Robert Williams is expected to miss 8-12 weeks after undergoing surgery on his left knee.
Wing Brodric Thomas and striker Jake Layman could also be in the mix, and the Celtics will monitor cutbacks at training camps elsewhere as the season gets underway. At the moment, they haven’t shown any interest in adding a veteran big guy like Dwight Howard or DeMarcus Cousins.
The 34-year-old was expected to play around 20 minutes per game and provide much-needed scoring off the bench. Celtics executives didn’t panic when he was injured while playing for Italy at the European Basketball Championships earlier this month because they were confident second-year sniper Sam Houser could step in.
The 6-foot-7 Hauser made 19 of 44 three-pointers (43.2 percent) while on a two-way contract last season and signed a two-year deal in July. It is defensively limited, as is the gallinary. Hauser will have early chances to show that he is ready for meaningful minutes.
background area chemistry
Guard Malcolm Brogdon has said all the right things since he was acquired from the Pacers in July. He’s poised to be the sixth man to support Defensive Player of the Year Marcus Smart, and he believes the two will thrive when they come together. But both have been starting point guards for most of their careers and both have big personalities. Their cohesion will be essential, and they will deserve attention.
Grant Williams Extension
Grant Williams may end up being the biggest beneficiary of injuries to Gallinari and Robert Williams. The permanent Year 4 striker is eligible to sign an extension until October 18, and he demonstrated his value as a dependable bench piece last season, when he scored 41.1% of his three-pointers and was an influential defender.
Williams could earn a salary of $10-12 million a year, or he could look at the bigger role looming due to front-court injuries and bet himself heading to restricted free agency next summer.
Last season, Stevens was his first as head of basketball operations after spending eight years as a coach, and he did his best to give Odoka the space to work. This year could be somewhat different, though, given the sudden move to Mazola, who is much younger and less experienced than Odoka. Stevens certainly won’t step in, but look for him to be more of an advisor and voice board in terms of coaching strategy, especially so early in the season.
Adam Himmelsbach can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter Tweet embed.