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CELTICS MEDIA DAY

Celtics media day: Key takeaways as interim coach Joe Mazzulla, star players address Ime Udoka’s suspension for the first time

Celtics interim coach Joe Mazzulla headed for the microphone to take questions from the media.Jim Davis/Globe Staff

In any other year, inquiries at Celtics media day would focus on Boston’s run to the NBA Finals, where it fell two games short of an 18th championship banner.

That was not the case on Monday.

Instead, players were peppered with questions about Celtics coach Ime Udoka, who was suspended for a year last week after an investigation found he violated team policies while engaging in a relationship with a staffer.

Star Jayson Tatum said he found out about Udoka’s suspension on Twitter. Most players said they haven’t spoken to their coach.

“Nobody really knows anything,” guard Marcus Smart said of the suspension, “so we’re just in the wind like everybody else, so these last couple of days have been confusing.”

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Monday was the first opportunity to hear from Joe Mazzulla, who will step up to lead the Celtics in the interim. Mazzulla, 34, has been on Boston’s staff since 2019. He addressed his promotion and his past, which includes an arrest for domestic battery while he was in college.

Tatum said Mazzulla was someone the team was comfortable with.

“He’s been here the last three or four years, so same person, just in a different position now,” he said. “So somebody that we’re familiar with and have a lot of respect for.”

You can see how media day unfolded below.

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The highlights

Celtics interim coach Joe Mazzulla spoke with reporters first.Jim Davis/Globe Staff

Joe Mazzulla addressed his domestic battery arrest

Joe Mazzulla, 34, has been on the Celtics’ coaching staff since 2019. He interviewed for the head coaching job with the Utah Jazz this offseason, but ex-Celtics president Danny Ainge opted to hire another Celtics assistant, Will Hardy.

Mazzulla’s experience with players was an obvious benefit to elevating him to the interim role. But he was forced to address charges from his past during his media day interview.

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Mazzulla was arrested in 2009 on charges of domestic battery for allegedly putting his hands on a woman’s neck at a Morgantown bar while playing for West Virginia.

“Listen, I’ve made mistakes. I’m not perfect,” he said of the situation. “I’ve hurt people, and I’ve had to use the situations I put myself in as a younger man, I’ve had to use to learn from and to become a better person. That’s what I’ve tried to focus on. How can I recreate my identity on a person? How I can rely on my faith? And how can I have a positive impact on the people around me? And I’ve always had good people around me.”

The 2009 arrest was not Mazzulla’s only incident. He was also charged with underage drinking in 2008, and with public urination in 2010. All three incidents reportedly involved alcohol. But Mazzulla has not been charged since.

Mazulla was asked if he could shed light his past, and emphasized how he has grown.

“I can’t talk about the specifics, but what I can talk about is I’m not the same person that I was. I think as you grow as a person, you’re constantly having to build and identity, and I didn’t have an identity at a certain point in my life, for whatever reason. I think it’s, How can I develop an identity? How can I find a foundation, which for me is my faith and then how can I impact people positively around me? That’s something I really learned throughout my life.”

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How players reacted to Udoka’s suspension

Jayson Tatum poses for photos.Maddie Malhotra/Getty

It was clear throughout media day that the players did not receive any notice from team leadership about Udoka’s suspension. News of the punishment first trickled out on Wednesday night, with no official comment from the Celtics until Thursday.

Marcus Smart: “It’s been hell for us. Caught by surprise. Nobody really knows anything so we’re just in the wind like everybody else, so these last couple of days have been confusing.”

“I think the hardest thing is it did happen so quickly. It happened in enough time where we didn’t have enough time to really understand anything until media day, so we just kind of, like you guys, have been thrown here, this is what’s going on, and we still have to go out and do our job.

“So, it’s been tough, because this type of situation takes away, unfortunately, from the players who are here and have put in the work and who are going out there to do their job. So it’s definitely been unfortunate for all parties involved, but we’re trying to do our best to cope or whatever we now.”

Jayson Tatum: “I guess I feel like everybody else. It’s a lot to process. Unexpected, especially coming into this season and you feel a certain way, coming off last year, you’re excited and trying to do all these things. It’s just a lot, if I’m being honest. And I guess, along with everybody else, you’re still trying to process it all knowing that you still have practice tomorrow.”

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Jaylen Brown: “I think I was overall shocked by what was going on, a little confused, a little bit but a lot of the information wasn’t being shared with us or members of the team so you can’t really comment on it.”

Robert Williams: “Yeah, we got a job, man. We’re here to do our job. It’s an unfortunate situation, everything that’s going on. But I can’t speak on that too much. I’m here to speak on basketball.”

Mazzulla wouldn’t say outright if he had spoken to Udoka since taking the interim title: “I’ve spoken to everyone who I feel like has been needed to be spoken to, and people I’ve built relationships with.”

Injury updates

Jayson Tatum revealed in August that he played with a fracture in his wrist throughout the playoffs.

“Feel good. Feel healthy,” he said of his injury on Monday. “Body feels great. Got some rest. So feel good coming into the training camp, ready for the season, looking forward to getting ready to go.”

Robert Williams will miss 8-12 weeks after his latest knee surgery.

He elaborated on what led to the decision to repair loose bodies and address swelling in his left knee so close to the start of the season.

“I feel like just the lack of having an amount of time,” he said. “I was playing on it last year, it had instances where I had to give it time during the summer to rest, but I just feel like it never got back to what it was. That’s the bottom line. So, we want to do 100 percent of rehab and do things the right way.”

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How media day unfolded

Three key quotes from Malcolm Brogdon — 2:45 p.m.

On playing with Marcus Smart: “Marcus is one of those guys, whenever I play him, we always say what’s up after the game. And then since I’ve gotten here, he’s been great. He’s been terrific. I think people build up a feud between us about ‘They’re bringing in a point guard,’ yada yada. At the end of the day, me and Marcus are going to be on the floor a lot together, playing together. Me and Marcus have different strengths, work really well together. And we’re both really competitive and are going to push each other and help each other.”

On being traded to the Celtics: The Pacers did me really well. They gave me the option of picking between a few teams, and I picked Boston because I want to win. It doesn’t matter if I’m the sixth man, whatever role I’m playing. I’m going to accept it and I’m going to go out there and embrace it. I want to add on to what this team has. This team has a great unit, great chemistry. They were on the verge of winning a championship as we saw and they needed a little bit more. So I’m going to come and add-on to what’s already going on.”

On Boston’s backcourt: “I think we’ll be the best defensive backcourt in the league, for sure.”

Brown is staying plant-based — 2:30 p.m.

Is Jaylen Brown getting tips from Tom Brady?

The Celtics star said he spent much of last season eating plant-based meals, with the exception of some fish.

He turned to fish oil, which he said helped with his recovery from COVID-19.

He plans to stay the same this season.

“The less weight you’re carrying, it helps prevent injuries down the line.”

Brown said he also avoids foods like cheese and dairy products because it helps prevent inflammation.

Marcus Smart: ‘It’s been hell for us’ — 2:20 p.m.

Reigning defensive player of the year Marcus Smart spoke about his coaches:

On the Udoka situation: “It’s been hell for us. Caught by surprise. Nobody really knows anything so we’re just in the wind like everybody else, so these last couple of days have been confusing.”

On Mazzulla: “Have a really good relationship with Joe. I think pretty much everybody on the team does. Joe’s been here through the hard times, through the good times. He knows and understands us as players. He’s built relationships with us, so we love Joe. We’re excited to be able to work with him and this opportunity he has. So, we’re all new. He’s new to this. We’re new to him being in this position, so we’re all gonna learn together and go together.

More on Udoka: “I think the hardest thing is it did happen so quickly. It happened in enough time where we didn’t have enough time to really understand anything until media day, so we just kind of, like you guys, have been thrown here, this is what’s going on, and we still have to go out and do our job. So, it’s been tough, because this type of situation takes away, unfortunately, from the players who are here and have put in the work and who are going out there to do their job. So it’s definitely been unfortunate for all parties involved, but we’re trying to do our best to cope or whatever we now.”

Jayson Tatum on Udoka, his wrist injury, and Mazzulla — 2:10 p.m.

On the Udoka situation: “I guess I feel like everybody else. It’s a lot to process. Unexpected, especially coming into this season and you feel a certain way, coming off last year, you’re excited and trying to do all these things. It’s just a lot, if I’m being honest. And I guess, along with everybody else, you’re still trying to process it all knowing that you still have practice tomorrow.”

On his wrist: “Feel good. Feel healthy. Body feels great. Got some rest. So feel good coming into the training camp, ready for the season, looking forward to getting ready to go.”

On Mazzulla: “Somebody we’re comfortable with. He’s been here the last three or four years, so same person, just in a different position now. So somebody that we’re familiar with and have a lot of respect for.”

Marcus Smart on Udoka: ‘Nobody died.’ — 2:00 p.m.

Marcus Smart had kind words to say about Udoka:

“Nobody died. I still love Ime as a person and as a coach. He led us to the Finals. It’s just something unfortunate has happened to him.”

But he also said it has “been hell” for the team.

“It caught us by surprise. Nobody really knows anything.”

Smart, speaking with Celtics staffers on NBC Sports Boston, also addressed the trade rumors that swirled around him and Jaylen Brown this summer before Kevin Durant recommitted to the Nets.

Smart said he told Brown while they were training together in Los Angeles that he’s been through it and that he would support Brown through it. But he also emphasized that no matter how great a player Durant is, that the Celtics needed Brown.

Jaylen Brown on Udoka, Bill Russell, and Mazzulla — 1:50 p.m.

On reaction to Ime Udoka’s situation and suspension:

“I think I was overall shocked by what was going on, a little confused, a little bit but a lot of the information wasn’t being shared with us or members of the team so you can’t really comment on it.”

On Bill Russell’s No. 6 being retired league-wide, and other ways he is being honored:

“I think that was an obvious one, what he stood for in this organization and this league meant a lot so to be commemorated in an appropriate light is just fitting for someone like him. He was a historical figure, he elevated the game of sports and how he used his platform to bring quality and life to a lot of situations where people were being closed-minded to and he wasn’t celebrated for…I think we forget that in that social climate that was going on during that time. For him to be able to stand above that and be able to speak on that platform and bring a lot of life to situations, we commemorate him.”

On Joe Mazzulla becoming interim coach:

“I’m optimistic. I believe in Joe, Joe believes in me. In my conversations with him, I don’t think he sees a limit on my game. He’s coming in excited so I’m optimistic.”

Payton Pritchard broke his nose this summer — 1:45 p.m.

The story: “One of my best friends, we were playing outside on a 9-foot hoop ... he elbowed me while we were up in the air ... I knew right away I broke it.”

That’s a second broken nose for Payton Pritchard, who also said his two front teeth are capped after getting hit in the face.

Joe Mazzulla addresses domestic violence arrest — 1:40 p.m.

“Listen, I’ve made mistakes. I’m not perfect,” Mazzull said of his 2009 arrest on charges of domestic battery for allegedly putting his hands on a woman’s neck at a Morgantown bar while playing for West Virginia.

“I’ve hurt people, and I’ve had to use the situations I put myself in as a younger man, I’ve had to use to learn from and to become a better person. That’s what I’ve tried to focus on. How can I recreate my identity on a person? How I can rely on my faith? And how can I have a positive impact on the people around me? And I’ve always had good people around me.”

Mazulla was asked if he could shed light on the incidents.

“I can’t talk about the specifics, but what I can talk about is I’m not the same person that I was. I think as you grow as a person, you’re constantly having to build and identity, and I didn’t have an identity at a certain point in my life, for whatever reason. I think it’s, How can I develop an identity? How can I find a foundation, which for me is my faith and then how can I impact people positively around me? That’s something I really learned throughout my life.”

Three key quotes from Joe Mazzulla — 1:35 p.m.

Joe Mazzulla.Maddie Malhotra/Getty

On being an NBA head coach for the first time: “I worked for a lot of great head coaches and played for great head coaches, and I think it’s about taking a formula of what worked for those guys and how I can make these players better.

On how the organization has been affected by Ime Udoka’s situation, particularly women: “This situation has affected everybody. It’s affected everyone. And so, being as patient as we can and giving people the time to feel and heal I think are the two most important things. And you can’t rush trust. You can’t rush healing. You can’t rush any of that. And so just being present for whoever needs us to be present for them, I think, is the key. And being a listener and how can we provide support for everyone are things I’m focused on on how to help.”

On whether he has spoken to Udoka since being hired: “I’ve spoken to everyone who I feel like has been needed to be spoken to, and people I’ve built relationships with, so, yeah.”

Derrick White on fatherhood and watching the WNBA Finals — 1:30 p.m.

Derrick White joined the NBC Sports Boston crew. Here’s what he said:

▪ On the offseason: “Spent it back in Colorado, back home, hanging with my kid, hanging with the family, watching them grow.”

▪ On his son, Hendrix, who was born during the NBA playoffs four months ago: “I always tell him I don’t know what I’m doing, so take it easy on me. ... Cool to see him grow.”

▪ On watching the Las Vegas Aces win the WNBA Finals in person in Connecticut (“Connecticut, the Vegas of the Northeast,” White joked): “I was watching the playoffs the whole time, it’s high level basketball. And I knew it was only an hour-and-a-half away [so I went down to] support them and see Becky (Hammon, head coach of the Aces and White’s former coach in San Antonio).”

Jayson Tatum found out Udoka was suspended via Twitter — 1:10 p.m.

How did Jayson Tatum learn about Ime Udoka’s one-year suspension?

“On Twitter, like everybody else.”

Robert Williams on knee injury — 1:00 p.m.

The timeline for Celtics center Robert Williams’s return was lengthened after he underwent surgery to repair loose bodies and address swelling in his left knee, with the big man now expected to resume basketball activities in 8-12 weeks, the team announced Friday.

Previously, Williams was expected to be sidelined 4-6 weeks following his procedure. It now appears that he could miss more than two months of the regular season, further weakening a depleted frontcourt.

Williams told reporters on Monday he recently started experiencing knee soreness, prompting the surgery.

It sounds like the players don’t know much about Udoka’s situation — 12:55 p.m.

Jaylen Brown says he hasn’t talked to Udoka — 12:50 p.m.

Jaylen Brown said he hasn’t talked with Ime Udoka: “We were all shocked with what’s going on, a little confused.”

He’s also ready to move on.

▪ From Tara Sullivan: Brown is speaking repeatedly on the confusion and lack of information about Udoka’s suspension. He also says: “I’m here, ready to play basketball. I’m in great shape. I’m excited to start the journey. Things haven’t gone in the start he way we’ve wanted it to go. That’s life sometimes.”

Tatum talks offseason, disappointing finish, and his diet — 12:45 p.m.

Some highlights from Jayson Tatum’s conversation with NBC Sports Boston:

▪ On the offseason: “A lot shorter than previous years, I got some proper rest, went on vacations and traveled and had fun and obviously got in the gym. So I’m ready to get back to it.”

▪ On what he learned from the team’s finish: “It is extremely tough to get to that point. A lot of people have never gotten there.”

▪ On preparing his body for a long playoff run: “I never want to miss a game, but you understand there’s a science part to it, of proper recovery.” Tatum said he worked on changing his diet on the offseason, saying that he’s finding as he gets older (Tatum is 24) he realizes he needs to invest more in what he does off the court.

Malcolm Brogdon said he had options — 12:35 p.m.

Malcolm Brogdon, who is expected to come off the bench as the Celtics’ sixth man, said he picked the Celtics over other options offered by the Indiana Pacers.

Brogdon will need to share time with fellow guard Marcus Smart, and he is optimistic about the approach: “We can be the best defensive backcourt in the league.”

Grant Williams on Joe Mazzulla — 12:20 p.m.

Grant Williams could end up being the biggest beneficiary of the injuries to Danillo Gallinari and Robert Williams. The durable fourth-year forward is eligible to sign an extension until Oct. 18, and he showed his value as a dependable bench piece last season, when he hit 41.1 percent of his 3-pointers and was an impactful defender.

Williams could command a salary of about $10 million-$12 million per year, or he could look at the larger role looming due to the frontcourt injuries and place a bet on himself heading into restricted free agency next summer.

He joined the NBC Sports Boston crew for an interview. He was asked about Joe Mazzulla. The highlights:

“He brings a level of intensity ... there’s no one better for the role.”

“He’s a guy that challenges you ... will get the most out of you.”

Williams couldn’t say enough about Mazzulla’s competitiveness, whether it is on the court or in a card game. But the duo haven’t had a chance to play Williams’s favorite game yet.

“He does not play Catan,” Williams said. “... at least I don’t think he does.”

We’re hearing from Joe Mazzulla — 12:15 p.m.

Interim coach Joe Mazzulla is at the podium.

Here are some key things he said:

▪ “In moments like this you have to stay empathetic, you have to stay poised, and you have to stay focused on what’s the most important thing.”

▪ “It’s a collaboration. We have to do this together. Focus on all the things we were great at.”

▪ “This situation has affected everybody. You can’t rush trust. You can’t rush healing. You can’t rush any of that.”

▪ Mazzulla also discussed his 2009 domestic battery charge: “I’ve made mistakes. I’m not perfect. I’m not the same person. I didn’t have an identity then.”

Live stream — 12:00 p.m.

NBC Sports Boston is offering a live stream. Check it out:

What will Brad Stevens’s involvement look like? — 11:30 a.m.

Last season, his first as president of basketball operations after spending eight as coach, Stevens went out of his way to give Udoka space to operate. This year could be somewhat different, however, given the sudden transition to Mazzulla, who is much younger and less experienced than Udoka. Stevens will certainly not meddle, but look for him to be more of an adviser and sounding board regarding coaching strategy, especially early in the season.

Roster battles to watch — 11:20 a.m.

As Brad Stevens built the back-end of the camp roster this summer he prioritized veterans who never blossomed with other NBA teams over young, undrafted free agents looking to prove themselves.

Former first-round picks such as forward Noah Vonleh (No. 9 pick, 2014), forward Luka Šamanić (No. 19, 2019), forward Justin Jackson (No. 15, 2017), and center Mfiondu Kabengele (No. 27, 2019) are among those who will be battling for the final three regular roster spots, although Boston will likely keep one open to maintain flexibility.

There is extra urgency, and opportunity, in the frontcourt now that forward Danilo Gallinari is out for the year after tearing an ACL and center Robert Williams is expected to be sidelined 8-12 weeks after undergoing a maintenance surgery on his left knee.

Wing Brodric Thomas and forward Jake Layman could also be in the mix, and the Celtics will monitor training camp cuts elsewhere as the preseason unfolds. For now, they’ve shown no interest in adding a veteran big man such as Dwight Howard or DeMarcus Cousins.

Is Joe Mazzulla ready? — 11:10 a.m.

Interim head coach Joe Mazzulla has had a rapid rise. Just over three years ago he was the head coach at Division 2 Fairmont State, and last spring he was not even one of the three Celtics assistant coaches with a seat on the bench.

But Boston’s brass has been impressed by Mazzulla, and his status as a rising star was affirmed when he interviewed for the Utah Jazz’s head coaching opening this summer. That job went to Celtics assistant Will Hardy, and Mazzulla was promoted to a bench role on Boston’s staff.

Now, he is in charge. During a news conference to discuss Udoka’s suspension Friday, Celtics president of basketball operations Brad Stevens gushed about Mazzulla’s coaching acumen. And this is his fourth year with Boston, so the transition should be relatively smooth.

But unlike Udoka, Mazzulla never played in the NBA, and he is just 34, two years younger than starting forward Al Horford. He has some off-court issues to address, too, most notably his 2009 arrest on charges of domestic battery after allegedly grabbing a woman by the neck at a bar. Stevens said he thoroughly vetted Mazzulla’s situation before hiring him as an assistant in 2019, and he said Mazzulla is prepared to discuss the incident during media day Monday.

There is certainly no guarantee Udoka will be back next year, so Mazzulla could be auditioning for a long-term contract.


Oddsmakers shrug about Udoka — 11:05 a.m.

It remains to be seen how Celtics coach Ime Udoka’s one-year suspension for violations of team policies will affect the team’s quest for a championship.

Oddsmakers have mostly shrugged, with Boston remaining the favorite to win the title. But the only certainty at this point is that the season will go on without Udoka.

What is media day? — 11:00 a.m.

Teams throughout the NBA are holding their annual media days ahead of training camp, which begins this week.

Media day is primarily an opportunity for reporters to speak with players about the upcoming season. Teams also host photoshoots to gather images.

The Celtics’ media day begins at noon.


Katie McInerney can be reached at katie.mcinerney@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter at @k8tmac. Adam Himmelsbach can be reached at adam.himmelsbach@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @adamhimmelsbach.