How Playing For City Without Patience Has Helped Fuel Fire For Celtics

'... We play in a city that has no patience for any excuses'

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June 1, 2022

The 2021-22 season got off to a brutal start for the Boston Celtics, and those all around the organization heard about it in some fashion.

Talk show hosts and media pundits flamed Boston’s stars Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. Two franchise cornerstones who were both drafted at No. 3 overall couldn’t play together, many thought. It ultimately led many to concoct trade scenarios for one of the two players, and in some scenarios include Marcus Smart, as well. Then there was the criticism for first-year head coach Ime Udoka, first-year president of basketball operations Brad Stevens and the list went on and on.

But then the calendar turned to January. And the darkness that surrounded the Celtics lifted as the team bought into Udoka’s style and went on to become the best team in the league.

“To be honest, I’m not really sure,” Jaylen Brown said during his NBA Finals media availability Wednesday when asked what caused the change. “I think that we’ve been able to win in our career. Last year, obviously, things didn’t work out for other reasons. But this year, I didn’t feel like it was because of the way we play basketball. I just think that things didn’t come together at the right time.”

Between injuries, COVID-19 implications and poor play resulting in blown leads among other difficulties, the Celtics found themselves in 11th place in the Eastern Conference standings midway through January. Brown reflected on how the Celtics didn’t share any excuses, though, and instead came to an understanding.

They were playing for a city without patience and needed to come together.

“It doesn’t matter what the excuse is. We had a first-year head coach and we were trying to figure it out. We play in a city that has no patience for any excuses so we didn’t make any,” Brown said. “But as things started to come together, we got healthier, we made moves in that front office that were vital for us and things started to fall in line. And I think that’s what, if you ask me, that’s what I believe.”

Marcus Smart, who previously called out both Tatum and Brown in what since has become a reference to indicate just how bad things got, didn’t disagree with his teammate’s assessment Wednesday.

“I’ve been here in this city for eight years for Boston and I’ve heard everything. For me, it was a normal day in the office,” Smart said before Game 1 when reflecting about those mid-season criticisms. “Like JB said, we play for a city that’s very impatient. They have every right to be. The things they’ve accomplished, you know, it’s kind of hard not to be impatient. So we understood it.

“We get it,” Smart continued. “And it just helps us strive to go out there and please that impatient-ness that they have. It’s fuel to our fire.”

The Celtics, following a remarkable in-season turnaround which then led to two Game 7 victories in the Eastern Conference playoffs, now have their final challenge of the season. And it won’t be the impatience of those in Boston that test the Celtics, but instead the Golden State Warriors.

The NBA Finals is scheduled to tip off Thursday at 9 p.m. ET in San Francisco.

Thumbnail photo via Kyle Terada/USA TODAY Sports Images
Boston Celtics guard Marcus Smart
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