Boston Celtics

How Joe Mazzulla's ‘hard as s—‘ practices are benefiting Celtics

"He’s helped change the culture."

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With a full season under his belt, Joe Mazzulla seems more comfortable as the Boston Celtics' head coach. Which means he's more comfortable putting his team to work.

Amid all of the hype surrounding the Celtics after their acquisitions of All-Stars Kristaps Porzingis and Jrue Holiday, Mazzulla apparently is making sure his team stays grounded with some hard training sessions in the leadup to opening night on Oct. 25.

“Practice has been hard as s---, I ain’t gonna lie,” Celtics star Jayson Tatum said Tuesday night after Boston's 123-111 preseason win over the New York Knicks at TD Garden. "We’ve been practicing, a couple two-a-days. But it’s been good.

"We’ve been working hard. The second unit’s been pushing the first unit. We have a lot of competitive days, so guys are excited, guys are in good shape, guys have been working this offseason.”

Some of that work paid off Tuesday night, when Boston's "top six" of Derrick White, Jrue Holiday, Jaylen Brown, Tatum, Kristaps Porzingis and Al Horford helped the Celtics jump out to a 27-point lead over the Knicks.

The Celtics entered last season in a cloud of doubt, with Mazzulla instituted as the head coach in late September following Ime Udoka's suspension and former big man Robert Williams undergoing knee surgery. Tatum has noted a different vibe around this year's squad, however, citing the new additions on both the roster and the coaching staff in assistant coaches Sam Cassell and Charles Lee.

"There's just a freshness about this season," Tatum said. "We've got a new staff, new guys on the team, so I think everyone's just really excited and ready to get going."

That includes Mazzulla, who seems to be finding his voice in Year 2 and putting his own stamp on the team, rather than trying to maintain the status quo that Udoka set in 2021-22.

"He’s helped change the culture a little bit in a lot of ways, honestly,” Tatum said of Mazzulla. “I feel like he’s had his imprint on how he wants things to be, how he wants to practice, how he wants the environment, the vibe (to be), and we’ve all bought in.

"Joe has done a great job in kind of taking charge, doing things the way how he wants. It’s his thing, he’s the coach. And it’s been really cool to see that.”

The Celtics have one of the NBA's most talented rosters, and barring any major injuries, anything less than a championship will be viewed as a disappointment. That puts a lot of pressure on Mazzulla to keep his team on the right track, but it sounds like he's embracing the challenge.

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