For most of the 2020-2021 season, the Celtics’ inconsistency and lackluster performance were usually chalked up to COVID, health, and the truncated schedule coming off an extended playoff run in the bubble. Add some locker room dysfunction.
According to former CelticsBlogger and The Athletic’s Jared Weiss, Boston had its share of internal strife centering around then head coach Brad Stevens and Kemba Walker:
“While Walker’s struggles might have made him seem like a disappointment relative to his role and salary, he was still good last season. He is well-liked, known for his geniality and positivity. According to multiple team sources, there was some dysfunction in the locker room, with the relationship between Stevens and Walker characterized as tension-filled. Sources also suggest that Stevens was also perceived to be harder on Walker than on other top players.”
For those interested in an autopsy of Stevens’ final season coaching the Celtics and some possible fingerprints on his first move as President of Basketball Operations of sending Walker to Oklahoma City for Al Horford, it’s a must read. Weiss goes on to detail Stevens’ preferential treatment of Marcus Smart and several players being open to a coaching change at the end of the season.
So far, Stevens has addressed the rift between him and Walker by dealing the All-Star to the Thunder and creating some cap flexibility to mold a team around Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. However, the most important decision will be hiring a head coach to replace himself. As Weiss notes, “the common refrain was that the team should hire a person of color with NBA playing experience to coach, something Stevens seems to be addressing with Chauncey Billups, Ime Udoka and Darvin Ham getting second interviews, as first reported by ESPN.” Many have noted that Udoka could be at the top of the candidate list and with the Brooklyn Nets now eliminated from the playoffs, it’s possible that a decision could come sooner rather than later.