Boston Celtics fans expect greatness on a nightly basis, and when the team doesn’t produce that, patience begins to wear thin. So when the C’s were still hovering around .500 in the late stages of January, only two words could be used to describe fans': frustrated and disappointed.
And to be honest, that may be putting it lightly. Twitter was full of outlandish takes, fed-up fans, and media members trying to piece things together. Everything from firing Ime Udoka to trading Jaylen Brown was brought up on a daily basis.
To be frank, it wasn’t fun.
But then again, there’s not much fun to be found in losing, is there? The exceptions, of course, are rebuilding teams like the Orlando Magic and Oklahoma City Thunder, but that’s simply not where the Celtics were projected to be. They were supposed to be primed for a deep playoff run, not fighting for the play-in.
That’s when 2022 came around. Boston began to string together some wins, and now the Celtics find themselves in a position to make some serious noise in the playoffs. Udoka took home Coach of the Month for February, the Celtics have the best defense in the league since the new year, and most importantly, the team is having fun.
After Boston took down the Memphis Grizzlies on Thursday night, Jayson Tatum revealed that one of the biggest reasons behind their recent success is that they’re simply having more fun.
And with that, the narrative around the team has begun to shift. Instead of contemplating whether or not to blow the team up, fans are thinking about where Boston could end up in the standings. Most importantly, however, now that the Celtics are winning, the team’s personality can finally shine through.
Amidst the team’s early-season struggles, there was no room for fun. Any sort of laughter, jokes, or personality would immediately be met with ‘well, why don’t you win some games?’ It’s not the healthiest mindset to have, but that’s simply how Bostonians think. They’re too accustomed to winning. It takes precedence above all else.
So now that the wins have finally started to flood in, so has this team’s charm and lighter side.
Just the other night, after the Grizzlies game, Udoka joked around about how the Celtics ‘have the Coach of the Month’ in the locker room.
Ime Udoka on how the Celtics made adjustments at halftime: "You got the Coach of the Month in there" pic.twitter.com/AuA5ebuRpD— Celtics on NBC Sports Boston (@NBCSCeltics) March 4, 2022
It may not seem like much, but early on in the season, Udoka was stone-faced. He rarely smiled and was seemingly only focused on getting the team back on track. Seeing him finally be able to break out of his shell a bit was heartwarming. But of course, he was too humble to take the credit, immediately backtracking and getting back to the subject at hand.
Udoka’s not the only one starting to enjoy himself, either. It wasn’t too long ago that Tatum clowned on Grant Williams for calling an alley-oop during a blowout win over the Brooklyn Nets.
"I did not feel comfortable throwing Grant Williams an alley-oop on a fast break" - @jaytatum0 pic.twitter.com/rkm8xvUpEE— Celtics on NBC Sports Boston (@NBCSCeltics) February 25, 2022
The relationship between Tatum and Williams has been on full display as of late both on and off the court. Williams’ newfound shooting prowess has Tatum constantly hyping him up on the court, while the two battle back and forth over who’s stronger via their postgame weight room adventures.
Even the team’s veterans have been getting in on the action. Al Horford walked in during Marcus Smart’s postgame presser after the win over Memphis. Smart quickly called him out for the mistake, joked about his age, but gave him credit for his defense on Ja Morant.
Smart’s smile during the interview tells the whole story. Just a few months ago, he was calling out Tatum and Jaylen Brown publicly for not passing enough. It seems as though that moment was eons ago at this point.
The entire vibe of this Celtics team has changed. From the top of the pecking order to the end of the bench, everyone is constantly having a good time. Luke Kornet and Maliks Fitts even got in on the action recently, with Kornet hyping up a Horford-to-Robert Williams alley-oop and Fitts breaking out the guitar celebration after a Tatum dunk.
This was probably my favorite play from the Celtics win over the Grizzlies. The ball and player movement are terrific. Tatum accepts (embraces?) the double-team and Horford knows what he wants before he even catches it. Plus, look at the pure joy from Kornet as Rob slams it home! pic.twitter.com/1rgzUZkiqp— Keith Smith (@KeithSmithNBA) March 4, 2022
I have no idea who this guy is but I love his celebrations pic.twitter.com/FEbbRTxQuR— Danielle Hobeika (@DanielleHobeika) March 4, 2022
These sorts of moments wouldn’t be captured if the Celtics weren’t winning games. Winning basketball allows the luxury of enjoying the little things, especially in a city as critical as Boston. Just look around the league - the teams who are winning are the ones with the best moments.
Ja Morant and Jaren Jackson Jr. messing with rookie Ziaire Williams after a big game - the Grizzlies are 43-21. Deandre Ayton, Mikal Bridges, and Cameron Payne dancing and lip-syncing pregame - the Phoenix Suns are 50-12. Draymond Green’s son getting a chair to sit near the bench - the Golden State Warriors are 43-20.
You don’t see any fun stories coming out about the Los Angeles Lakers or New York Knicks. Just like there were none to cover at the start of the Celtics season.
Winning breeds fun. It’s nice to be able to appreciate the little moments now that the Celtics have picked things up. Try to enjoy the little things.