NBA Media Day is a fairly silly tradition. We wait with bated breath to hear coaches, players and executives tell us just how much they like the squad their starting the season with.
Everyone had a great summer. Most are in the best shape of their lives. Lots of guys will have gained between 10 and 15 pounds of muscles. A handful will have some new moves that they can’t wait to breakout this season. Rotation players are ready to compete for the playoffs. For the lucky teams, they’re ready to start a title run. Players are the end of the roster are thankful for the opportunity to be in an NBA camp.
For fans, it’s basically a main line to the pleasure centers of our brains. Media Day is usually full of hope and joy. Nothing bad has happened yet and only great things are to come.
Not for Boston Celtics fans. Not this year.
Instead of that excitement for the new season, there’s almost a sense of trepidation. Just how many more shoes are going to drop before the new year tips off?
In the last month (after a summer of trade speculation swirl), Boston has lost a prized offseason addition in Danilo Gallinari, found out Robert Williams needs another knee surgery, gone through a scandal that caused Ime Udoka to be suspended for the year, and then, to top it all off, Williams’ recovery time is going to be twice as long as originally reported.
It’s fair for Celtics fans to already feel a little exhausted. It’s also fair for Day 1 of the new season to come with Boston fans feeling angry.
Three months ago, the Celtics were coming off an NBA Finals appearance. The sting of losing was painful, but within a couple of weeks, Boston had added Malcolm Brogdon, Danilo Gallinari and were installed as 2023 title favorites. The biggest question was if the Celtics needed a veteran backup big
Now? There are more questions than answers.
It’s fair to be mad about Gallinari getting hurt. It’s not really fair to be mad at Gallinari himself. Playing for your country is never something that should be questioned. You only get so many chances to do that. But being mad about the injury itself is fair. He was exactly what this frontcourt needed, Gallinari was so excited to be a Celtic and now he’s out for the season.
It’s fair to be mad that Robert Williams needs more surgery. The hope was a summer of rest would get Williams healthy and ready to go. Is it fair to be mad at Williams or even the Celtics? Definitely not at Williams. He battled as best he could. It’s probably not even fair to be mad at Boston for how they handled Williams’ injury. They were trying to win a title, shades of Kevin McHale ruining his foot notwithstanding. It just sucks that the season will start with Williams sidelined.
It’s fair to be mad about a summer of trade swirl that involved a lot of members of the Celtics roster, Jaylen Brown chief among them. That stuff can really impact a team. Will a player go all out if he knows he might be traded? It’s a fair question. That was going to be something the Celtics were always going to have to face at Media Day. A summer of trade rumors comes with a lot of unanswered questions. And it’s fair if fans aren’t happy about it.
And then there’s the Ime Udoka situation.
It’s more than fair for Celtics fans to be mad about this one. In fact, they should be angry. Regardless of if you feel this should have been a private matter, it’s now clear it wasn’t. And Udoka’s selfish acts, even with the minimal details provided to this point, have undermined the season in a major way.
And that’s not even the important part. First, you hope for the wellbeing of any directly impacted parties in this situation. No one should be put through a situation where they feel uncomfortable in their work environment.
After that, because we’re fans, we turn to the team. In the span of a year, Ime Udoka had become the Celtics leader. By the playoffs, Udoka had achieved full buy-in from his players. Now, he was set to have another veteran in Brogdon to help settle the team and keep things chugging.
Instead, we’re left wondering about who Udoka really is. Clearly, he’s a talented basketball coach. Just as clear, Udoka has no business leading a team at the moment.
Now, assuming they can rally, Boston is still a title contender, but they are led by an unproven rookie head coach who is younger than some of his own players. And that’s before we get to Joe Mazzulla having plenty of questions about his own background that need to be answered. Yet another reason for fans to be on edge as Media Day starts.
Media Day should be a celebration. As quotes are shared across the timeline, Twitter should fill with reactionary, over-the-top GIFs and memes about how Boston is headed for a 98-0 season. Media Day should end with visions of Banner 18 being raised to the rafters.
Instead, Media Day is going to be filled with questions about whether this team is ready for the season or not. How are the players reacting to losing their coach on the eve of camp opening? Are they ready to play for Mazzulla? What about the injuries? Oh, and how do many of you feel about being thrown in trade rumors all summer long?
Those last two were coming no matter what. That’s a natural part of Media Day. It’s as bingo card ready as “10 pounds of muscle” or “added X skill to my game”.
Questions about your coach being suspended for the year? That’s a new one, even for those who have been around for a long time.
So, yes, it’s fair for fans to be angry today. One of the most silly, fun days of the year has been taken from the fans. Media Day isn’t really for the media. Some teams have even started branding it “Content Day”, because that’s what the day really has become. It’s a fun, lighthearted, celebration of the new season.
Not in Boston. Not for Celtics fans.
But…don’t be cross with those Celtics fans who are excited today. Sometimes the best way to move forward is to…well…move forward.
For many, today is a chance to turn the page. The season is coming no matter what. Being ready to see the guys in green take the court and compete for Banner 18 is ok. It doesn’t mean you don’t care about the Udoka situation or place any less importance on it. It just means you move forward as the calendar inexorably moves forward.
Green Day once sang “Wake Me Up When September Ends”. That’s kind of the theme song for the Boston Celtics right now. September isn’t quite over, but it’s close enough. It’s time to wake up, and it’s ok to be ready to turn the page to the new season. The last month was a mess of epic proportions. Let’s all hope the next nine or so months can help us all move forward in a better way.