Boston Celtics

Mazzulla has candid take on East rivals' moves to compete with C's

"We're certainly not the standard."

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To Joe Mazzulla, the Boston Celtics remain the hunters and not the hunted.

A pair of moves made by Eastern Conference rivals have made it seem to the contrary. The Miami Heat improved their offense by acquiring ex-Celtic Terry Rozier from the Charlotte Hornets. The Milwaukee Bucks, despite a 30-13 start, fired head coach Adrian Griffin and replaced him with former C's coach Doc Rivers.

Both are looking up at the first-place Celtics in the East standings at sixth and second place, respectively. At least one of them is likely to stand in Boston's way of Banner 18 come playoff time.

Asked by Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe about the Heat and Bucks' moves to "compete" with the Celtics, Mazzulla shared a blunt response.

“I don’t think they’re competing with us," the C's head coach said. "First of all, we haven’t won. So I don’t know why anyone’s competing with us. We haven’t won a championship since 2008. We’re certainly not the standard. We’re chasing people as much as people may say they’re chasing us.

"We don’t even look at it in that standpoint. We just have to keep that healthy balance of knowing we’re a really good team but there’s also other really good teams and how we match up against them and how do we continue to get better as a team.”

The Celtics' strong first half of the campaign has made complacency difficult to avoid. With a league-best 34-10 record, Boston ranks third in offensive rating (120.1) and second in defensive rating (110.3). Their offseason additions of Kristaps Porzingis and Jrue Holiday have helped to make them juggernauts on both ends of the floor.

🔊 Celtics Talk: Rozier to the Heat. Doc to the Bucks. Digesting all the Celtics’ rivals moves with Bobby Marks | Listen & Subscribe | Watch on YouTube

Mazzulla understands how great his team can be, but past shortcomings should serve as a cautionary tale for those touting the Celtics as NBA title favorites. Boston has made it to the Eastern Conference Finals in five of the last seven postseasons and reached the Finals just once. In that Finals series, they fell 4-2 to the Golden State Warriors.

The 2023-24 C's are on pace to finish as Boston's best regular-season team in that span. Of course, as Mazzulla makes clear, that means next to nothing for an organization that hasn't won a championship since 2008 despite making the playoffs in all but one season since then.

The Celtics could look to counter their East rivals with a move or two of their own ahead of the Feb. 8 trade deadline. With how well the team has performed this season, however, it's fair to wonder whether it's in their best interest to stand pat.

Boston will visit Rozier and the Miami Heat on Thursday at 7:30 p.m. ET.

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