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Celtics welcoming all challengers to Hauser Island

Sam Hauser’s defensive capabilities are constantly being tested, and Joe Mazzulla is perfectly fine with that.

Boston Celtics v Memphis Grizzlies Photo by Justin Ford/Getty Images

After the Boston Celtics’ win over the New York Knicks on November 13, Joe Mazzulla declined to reveal the true reasoning behind his thoughts on Sam Hauser’s defensive capabilities.

“I think he’s a much better defender than people think,” Mazzulla said. “I can’t say why, or else I’ll get in trouble.”

On Saturday night, he conceded.

“I’m seeing the same thing I saw last year,” the second-year Celtics coach said of Hauser’s defense. “Seeing the same thing I saw when I first coached him in Summer League: a white shooter who most people think he can’t play defense. Yeah, I said it.”

Stop by stop, Hauser is proving the rest of the league wrong.

“It was more about everyone having to shake the stereotype that he couldn’t guard, which I already knew,” said Mazzulla.

Hauser is holding opponents to 44.8% shooting from the field and 35.5% shooting from deep this season. He ranks first among the Celtics’ regulars in opponent three-point percentage, and just two guys best him in FG% - Jrue Holiday (44.8%) and Al Horford (44.3%) -- two former All-Defense players.

Despite his clear success in one-on-one situations, teams continue to attack him. And they continue to fail.

The Houston Rockets were in town on Saturday, and Hauser checked into the game for the first time at the 6:50 mark in the first quarter. Without missing a beat, Houston bought a ticket to Hauser Island.

After a stop, the Rockets immediately cleared out the floor so Dillon Brooks could attack Hauser in the post. He tried to back him down, lost his dribble, regained it, and missed a contested turnaround jumper.

For the better part of last season, Hauser Island jokes ran rampant as teams looked to attack the Celtics forward in isolation and he stood his ground. “Yeah, I never bought into that,” Mazzulla said when asked about Hauser Island.

Rather than sending help or trying to bail him out, Mazzulla and the Celtics are welcoming all patrons who would like to visit.

“I’ve always said he could guard,” Mazzulla said. “I always knew he could be a good defender, and the more people attack him, the more reps we get for the playoffs. So, I hope they continue to do it.”

Boston’s coaching staff is constantly encouraging Hauser, motivating him to stand his ground on the defensive end, especially when other teams decide to attack him.

Once again, the Rockets space out the floor to allow someone to go at Hauser. This time, it’s Jabari Smith Jr., and the Celtics’ bench instantly recognizes what’s happening. Assistants Sam Cassell and Tony Dobbins spring up from their seats and start yelling at Hauser to stay home.

Hauser keeps his hands out, sticks with Smith Jr. step for step as he attacks, and forces a wild shot that goes in the books as a Rockets turnover.

This misconception has been going on for two seasons now despite Boston’s confidence in Hauser’s abilities as a one-on-one defender.

“He’s been able to play defense since I coached him in Summer League,” said Mazzulla. “He does a really good job of taking tendencies. He does a really good job of understanding who he’s guarding. He does a really good job of not giving up angles. And he’s been that way since Day 1.”

Three-point shooting will always be the first story when it comes to Hauser, but the Celtics know he can guard. And as teams continue to punch their own tickets to Hauser Island, he’ll welcome them with open arms. (Literally.)

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