Since the start of the new year, the Celtics are 29-9, including a 19-3 record since the start of February. They’ve managed to skyrocket up the standings, now sitting in a virtual tie for third, but only half a game back of both the Miami Heat and Philadelphia 76ers for first.
When asked about what he believes the catalyst behind Boston’s surge has been, Grousbeck pointed to first-year head coach Ime Udoka. He said that he knew from the moment he met Udoka that he would be the right coach to lead this team.
“I’ve got to give Ime a lot of credit... When I met him last summer, I was like, this is the guy… He’s just the real deal. And so, he was able to influence the team and the team fell into or, you know, joined in that vision. And it took some time, but it started to come together in early January. So, we’re a work in progress still, but I’ve got to give Ime a lot of credit for coming in and leading the team this way.”
Grousbeck, of course, gave plenty of the credit to the players, too, but he went into great detail about how impressed he’s been with Udoka. He mentioned everything from Udoka’s personal basketball journey to the way he interacts with players during the game.
When it comes to players, though, Grousbeck was specifically asked about Marcus Smart. He said that Smart has “a seventh and an eighth gear,” and even went as far as to compare him to a Celtics legend - Kevin Garnett.
“I love the fact that he cares that much. And it’s infectious. Everybody cares that way. It’s like, in a different way. it’s like when KG was here. I mean, you just can’t let down when KG is around, or KG’s in practice, or if KG is on the floor with you. And I think Marcus brings a lot of that same energy and that same drive and it’s an important ingredient for a team to have that fight.”
And obviously, Grousbeck was asked about Celtics superstar Jayson Tatum as well. But when asked about the idea of keeping Tatum around for the long run, Grousbeck made it more about the team, rather than the individual.
“Oh yeah, we love Jayson. We’ve obviously maxed them out. Jayson, Jaylen, Al, Marcus. Rob, I mean, our starting five is unbelievable. And then you can add another five onto that. It’s a group you want to keep together.”
After breaking down the team’s recent success, Grousbeck got into a discussion surrounding the team’s future. More specifically, he talked about a conversation he had with Udoka and Brad Stevens this past offseason.
“In the offseason, when Ime and Brad were in place, I met with them. I said, ‘listen, I’m not freaked out about this year. Ime, you’re gonna be a first-time head coach, you don’t need to get off to some amazing start. This year doesn’t have to be a record-setting year. What I want to do is win a ring, another one, when we’re in the prime here over the next five years.’”
Grousbeck emphasized this point of not trying to rush things. Even with the extremely slow start that Boston got off to, he made it clear that he wants to prioritize the future, rather than searching for “Band-Aid” solutions.
That doesn’t mean he isn’t thrilled with the team’s recent success, though, but his plan was always to take the pressure off of Udoka and Stevens. He wants to “relentlessly” help this team reach their goal of winning a championship.
“But I said, ‘don’t do anything this year for a quick Band-Aid that’s going to mess up the next four years. This feels like we’re going to build into this thing.’ Now, it’s actually caught fire over the last couple of months, so everybody’s feeling great. But anyway, I tried to take the pressure off this year for the guys and say, ‘settle in, there’s not gonna be any panic from me or my partners. There’s not gonna be anything other than let’s go relentlessly do everything we can to build this team.’”
And with his closing thoughts on the matter, Grousbeck once again went back to his thoughts on the future, but this time, in relation to the Celtics’ roster. He noted the team’s youth — and in what should be music to Celtics fans’ ears — said that they are “going to be a problem.”
“So everybody, except for Al Horford and now Daniel Theis is his late 20’s, Al’s in his 30’s. But everybody else is like 24, 25 on this team. And so we are positioned, and we’re gonna keep this thing together, and we are going to be a problem hopefully for people.”
But what may please fans more is that Grousbeck revealed the desire to continuously bring back the Celtics’ core players - Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Smart, and Robert Williams. Combining that with praise for the rest of the roster, Grousbeck said that he thinks something special is brewing in Boston.
“We are trying to make sure Jayson, Jaylen, Rob, and Marcus want to re-sign here, and they’ve all recently resigned here. We want to build around those guys. We love having Al back. We love having Theis back. Derrick White’s a huge addition. We’ve got him locked up for multiple years. This feels like you know, it’s working now, and it’s gotta keep going, but we’ve got to makings here of something that’s really exciting.”
Here’s a rough breakdown of Grousbeck’s comments based on the video above:
1:03 - Ray Allen on Kevin Garnett night
2:12 - Jayson Tatum’s ceiling/The team’s intensity
3:39 - Crediting Ime Udoka for Celtics success
5:28 - Respect between Udoka and the players
7:02 - What makes Udoka’s connection with the players so special
8:07 - Desire to keep Tatum in Boston long-term
9:11 - Mention of viral Celtics 2022 championship tattoo
10:14 - Marcus Smart as point guard, his role in the team’s turnaround
11:34 - This team vs. the 1986 Celtics
12:33 - Overall excitement/Discussion of his conversation with Udoka, Stevens
14:18 - Wants to re-sign players/Thanks fans