The 2021-22 edition of the Boston Celtics underwent monumental changes from the underwhelming group one season prior.
Brad Stevens was bumped upstairs after serving as head coach and reportedly losing the locker room.
Ime Udoka took over his position, set to bring a fresh set of ideas with players going on record about how they were eager to play for him.
The organization brought in a veteran voice in Al Horford.
They acquired Josh Richardson and others to improve their defense.
And the Celtics continued to cater to their stars — Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum — with roster subtractions and additions officially turning the team over to them.
So why does it feel like so many wholesale changes haven’t really changed anything at all?
The Celtics, who dropped to 2-5 on the early season, suffered a very familiar collapse Monday night against the Chicago Bulls at TD Garden. Some would even say it was 2020-esque. And it served as the icing on the cake during yet another disappointing start.
The Celtics have struggled with the basics of playing hard and focus through the first seven games. Those are aspects of the game that don’t take talent. They are also aspects of the game that should always be there when you’re a professional athlete. Never mind the fact that it should be easier to do at this point in the season than any other. If Boston can’t find the motivation to compete when they’re still relatively fresh, what’s going to happen when they’re 45, 50, 60 games into the season?
And the unfortunate reality is that this trip around the sun might actually be worse. Monday’s postgame events certainly were.
The Celtics frequently expressed their frustration after similar losses last season, and for good reason. There were a number of blown leads, a number of games they should have won and didn’t, a number of times where they lost to far less inferior teams.
But even after all those losses — Boston finished 36-36 — they didn’t call each other out. And that’s exactly what Celtics guard Marcus Smart did Monday while pleading for Tatum and Brown to, quite literally, pass the ball more.
Sure, Smart backtracked on his comments a bit while saying the team was happy with the Tatum and Brown’s “progress” as playmakers. But he, like Udoka had previously, explained how the team will need more from them. And we’re not here to say it’s not a fair criticism. It is. And the Celtics will need more than six assists from the two if they look to play with the ball movement critical to them winning games. But it’s just hearing the public criticism hits a bit different.
How did Tatum and Brown respond? Well, they did not speak to the media as they reportedly declined postgame interviews.
And again, we’re only seven (!!) games into the season.
In fairness to Smart, though, it has seemed like one never-ending campaign dating back to December 2020.
Even the monumental changes haven’t changed a thing thus far.