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Udoka: Celtics will have two captains this year

The Celtics will break a tradition since early in Brad Stevens’ tenure as head coach.

Boston Celtics vs Indiana Pacers Photo by Matt Stone/Digital First Media/Boston Herald via Getty Images

Here are a few words Celtics fans haven’t heard used together in a long time: “captain of the Boston Celtics.” It’s a sports team tradition that Brad Stevens elected to do away with while he was the head coach. But there’s a new sheriff in town – Ime Udoka – and he’s bringing the tradition back with a twist:

That’s right. Not one, but two captains will be in charge of player accountability this year. While much can be said of Brad Stevens’ approach to team buy-in and the idea of everyone on the team stepping up to be a leader instead of one person, there is a lot of value in the title and the responsibility that comes with it. The role of captain doesn’t have to necessarily be played by the team’s best player — just the player that others respect and listen to the most.

Accountability has been a major theme out of training camp this year, and you’re hearing about it more and more from players who are holdovers from last year’s roster. This is a positive step toward that goal.

Who could function as a captain? Don’t look to Jaylen Brown to nominate himself. “It’ll be an honor. It’s a responsibility that no one will take for granted,” he said. “Obviously we’ve got a lot of great leaders on our team, so if I wasn’t selected, it wouldn’t be a bad thing…Al has got my vote right now.”

Al Horford notoriously has the respect of pretty much every non-Philly teammate he’s ever had, and even among his Philly teammates (Josh Richardson), you’d be hard-pressed to find any criticisms about his leadership style. Players seemed especially excited about his return to Boston, not just for his on-court contributions but also his leadership in the locker room.

Marcus Smart is constantly heralded as the heart and soul of the team, so naturally as the longest-tenured Celtic on the roster, he would be an excellent choice to be a vocal and nominated leader of the squad. But in typical Smart fashion, he shook off the suggestion and focused on the task at hand.

“It wouldn’t matter to me if I got captain or not. Having the title captain means nothing,” Smart said after Saturday’s practice. “It’s just a title. Anybody can be a captain ... we’re all grown here. Gotta go out there and do a job.”

You could also look to the team’s best player, Jayson Tatum, as someone who’s continued to find his voice more and more each season as he’s ascended into superstardom. These aren’t the only options, and it says a lot about this group that there are multiple options.

In addition to the news about captains, another change from Brad Stevens’ coaching tenure will come with starting lineups. Stevens would often change his starting lineups based on matchups, but Udoka is looking to solidify his starters and stay consistent throughout the year.

Stevens valued the flexibility, but over the years, there have been comments and reports about players not knowing what to expect from game to game. This change could have a positive effect on the morale of the group even if it leads to not the same advantages as Stevens’ approach.

Udoka noted that we shouldn’t read too much into the starters on Monday against Orlando, but by the time the final preseason game against Miami rolls around, that group will be the group for the season.

Change isn’t good or bad inherently, so the results will speak for themselves. After a .500 campaign last year, though, these changes are welcome.

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