The Boston Celtics surprised many last season with their run to the 2022 NBA Finals, but this year, it's no secret: They're one of the best teams in basketball.
The Celtics have won a combined 108 regular-season games over the past two seasons under two first-year head coaches. Their 57-25 record under Joe Mazzulla this season was their best since 2008-09, and they're tied with the Milwaukee Bucks for the best odds to win the 2023 NBA Finals after two convincing wins over the Atlanta Hawks in their first-round playoff series.
While Boston is led by one the NBA's best duos in Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, there's much more that goes into the team's recent success. Just ask former Celtics assistant coach Damon Stoudamire, who recently became Georgia Tech's new head coach after two seasons with the C's.
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In a 1-on-1 with NBC Sports Boston's Abby Chin, Stoudamire provided unique perspective on what makes the Celtics tick.
"The thing about this Boston team for me -- and I watch a lot of basketball -- I don't think that there's a more connected team. I've never seen a more connected team," Stoudamire told Chin. "About a month before (Derrick) White came in the trade last year, from that point on, I've never been around a group of guys that can read each other and play off each other on both ends of the floor the way these guys do."
Aside from the additions of White, Malcolm Brogdon and Blake Griffin, the Celtics essentially have had the same core group over the past two seasons and have developed terrific chemistry in the process, with all three newcomers fitting seamlessly while embracing their roles.
To that point, Stoudamire said this is a Celtics team that has buy-in up and down the roster -- even from players like Grant Williams, Payton Pritchard and Griffin, who have had to accept smaller roles.
"It's a (reflection) who they are, both as basketball players, but (also) with their character, because it's not easy to sacrifice some of the things that some of the guys have to sacrifice," Stoudamire said. "You even look right now -- I know it's not easy for Grant not playing, but he knows he has to always be ready. I know it's not easy for Payton. I know it's not easy for Blake.
"When you've been with guys, you know how they feel, because they're competitors. But at the same time too, when I was in Boston those two years, winning superseded everything, and I think that's what makes this group special."
It's one thing to say you put winning first, but the Celtics have walked the walk; Brogdon has fully embraced a sixth man role despite starting every game in the previous four seasons, while even Tatum and Brown have played more team-oriented basketball, both averaging career highs in assists.
Falling two wins short of a title last year clearly motivated Boston to do whatever it takes to win this season, and so far, that mindset is paying off.
Stoudamire also discussed how the Jays have grown this season, Mazzulla's evolving timeout strategy and much more. Check out the full interview below.