BRIGHTON, MA — Few organizations throughout the world of professional sports boast a richer history than the Boston Celtics. From Bill Russell to Larry Bird to Paul Pierce, the legendary names that passed through the franchise helped build what it is today.
And for a Celtics team with more expectations than ever, learning from the past may be a crucial part of their season.
“I sent an email out to all the Celtic former players because I felt like it’s important that we share in this experience together,” said head coach Joe Mazzulla. “They started the tradition, they kept it going, and now it’s our responsibility as an organization to keep it alive.”
Pierce was at Celtics practice on Wednesday. He got some shots up and spent some time with Jayson Tatum, assistant coach and former teammate Sam Cassell, as well as others.
The Celtics legend was also a constant presence in the media this summer, from his workouts with Tatum to his trip to Colorado with Kevin Garnett, where he ran into Derrick White and Jaylen Brown.
Satch Sanders, Eddie House, and Leon Powe were in the building for practice on Tuesday, and it seems Mazzulla is attempting to make these appearances a regular occurrence.
“When you don’t see them all the time, you don’t get that connection to the past,” Mazzulla explained. “And the only past we have is the banners alone. The past should be the banners, but it should be the people. So I thought it was extremely important that any and every Celtic is welcome to a practice or a game so we can build that brotherhood of what we are.”
Rather than treating the Celtics like the players’ next stop on their NBA journey, Mazzulla is emphasizing the importance of furthering the brotherhood of the organization.
It’s more than just another team. Another jersey. Another building.
“I kind of compare it to college,” said Mazzulla. “When guys go to the NBA, they always go back to their college to work out. You see that all the time. So we should be coming back here. So I appreciate him [Pierce] being here. And extending that to everyone, we just have to create that brotherhood. That environment.”
Having Pierce around should be a constant reminder of the last time Boston reached the NBA’s mountaintop. Alongside Garnett, Ray Allen, and Rajon Rondo, Pierce brought the Celtics their first championship in over 20 years. This Boston team is looking to find that same success.
That said, there are potential negative side effects that could present themselves in tandem with the number of former players popping up. It could become more of a distraction than an aid.
“It’s funny. So I said this, it’s no one’s fault on their own, but it could have a negative effect if we don’t do it all the time. Because then it’s like we’re making it about the past and that one guy.”
But Mazzulla hopes to avoid that with consistency.
“If we normalize it, and there are people around all the time, and not just at a Game 7, and not just at a first playoff game, then it becomes like we’re doing this together,” Mazzulla said. “So I wanted to break that barrier of, like, once in a while. And like all the time, any time, whether it’s on the team plane, team dinner, we should have that open environment.”