In an NBA where star talent reigns supreme and high-level rotation players dominate discussions among fans, end-of-bench units often get overlooked. Things were different for the Boston Celtics this season, though. Their strength in depth meant that even the 10th and 11th men on their roster would likely get playing time elsewhere.
Yet, rather than debate who should be occupying the third big man slot or getting consistent minutes as a floor spacer off the bench, we became captivated with the good vibes nature of Boston’s bench unit.
The ‘Bus 1 Boys’ became a thing — so much so that there have even been rumblings of some merchandise in the pipeline. Comprised of Luke Kornet, Payton Pritchard, Sam Hauser, Mike Muscala, and Blake Griffin, the group oozed character and camaraderie.
“We go way back,” Pritchard said of Griffin in mid-November. “We have a good relationship. He’s done it for so long, you know. He’s been an unbelievable player, so, somebody you can learn from.”
As we look back on the 2022-23 season in years to come, the Bus 1 Boys will be nothing more than a footnote. Our discussion points will revolve around Ime Udoka’s suspension. Joe Mazzulla’s timeouts and affinity for the three-point line, and how the Celtics dropped three games to open the Eastern Conference Finals.
Sure, there will be fond memories of chanting for Blake Griffin during games and joking about how Sam Hauser is a defensive wall despite how opposing teams would hunt him rather than running their actions. But in truth, the vibes were a ‘be there, or you missed it’ type of experience, and frankly, that sucks.
Basketball is supposed to be about the fun. We’re supposed to get caught up in the lighter aspects. Each year, it feels like we focus on the results more and the experience less. If you were a Celtics fan this season, you knew who the Bus 1 Boys were, and you enjoyed every picture, quote, or random video that emerged to give us another glimpse into the bench unit’s time together.
Recreating that type of group is not easy. Sure, Mike Muscala, Sam Hauser, and Luke Kornet all project to be back next season. Yet the core, the prime two members that made the Bus 1 Boys who they were, are expected to move on this summer. Pritchard has made it clear he wants a trade according to Jay King of The Athletic. While Griffin’s contract has expired, and he will likely find himself a new team or explore retirement.
What made the Bus 1 Boys so captivating was their encapsulation of a Celtics roster that was all on the same page. For the majority of Boston’s core rotation, they’ve never experienced another locker room. So, for guys like Griffin to walk through the door and instantly begin singing the praises of the unity behind the scenes was exactly what fans wanted to hear — and so, we lived that out via those Bus 1 Boys stories.
“This group is, like, unbelievable,“ Griffin said on a February 27 episode of From the Rafters. “Everybody will talk to everybody, and everybody has a thing with everybody. We’ll sit on a plane sometimes, and just somebody will bring up, like, an NBA debate, and it’ll just be like guys yelling.”
Now as we put last season behind us and begin to turn our attention to what next season may hold, the Bus 1 Boys as we knew them will be nothing more than a memory. The vibes that we loved, and the locker room unity which they stood for, will both be reasons to maintain our excitement levels.
After all, no matter what happens throughout the summer, this Celtics team will still be among the best in the Eastern Conference. It will still enter the season with sky-high expectations and a fanbase that will cheer them on every step of the way. In some ways, it does feel like we gravitated to the Celtics bench rotation because they were like us: fans cheering on from the sidelines, enjoying the moment, and simply being taken along from the ride.
The only difference was, from time-to-time, they would actually step onto the court and be the people we were cheering for — but which one of us hasn’t had that dream before? In a season that gave us so much, we can also look back and remember a bench mob who were as fun and captivating as the Celtics were trigger-happy from deep.