The Celtics had minimal roster turnover after reaching the NBA Finals last season. Now that forward Danilo Gallinari is out for the year after tearing his ACL, guard Malcolm Brogdon is expected to be the lone regular rotation player who was not on the team last year.
So Brogdon, who was acquired in a trade with the Pacers in July, is looking to find ways to stand out while also blending in.
“He’s a very smart player,” Celtics coach Joe Mazzulla said. “He’s a very good player. He knows how to complement himself around other great players, and he’s done that throughout his career. He’s talked about that openly. Why he came here and what he wants to do to help us get to where we want to go.
“I think it’s a balance with everybody. You want people to be aggressive, but at the same time, you want them to complement each other. I think he does that very well.”
Brogdon was NBA Rookie of the Year with the Bucks in 2016-17 and he has not come off the bench in a game since 2017-18. But after the trade, he instantly embraced his likely role as a sixth man and made it clear that winning was his only focus.
Although he reached the conference finals with the Bucks in 2018-19, he said this might be the most talented team for which he has played.
“A guy like me that’s coming in here and not going to be the first or second option, just being willing to sacrifice,” Brogdon said. “I came from a team where I was a leading scorer, and guys know that. They know what I can do, they know what I did. So to come in here and be able to sacrifice and turn down shots to get a better shot and set these guys up, that shows a lot.”
With Robert Williams expected to miss at least two months after undergoing knee surgery, Brogdon will likely assume a larger workload and could even start in a smaller lineup that features Al Horford at center and Jaylen Brown at power forward. But Brogdon, who averaged 21.5 points per game for Indiana last season, stressed that he knows his role will be different here, and he is ready.
“I think it’s about keeping everything in perspective and being honest with yourself, about where you are in your career, what type of players you’re playing with, and what your real goal is,” he said. “Is your goal to make money? Is your goal to get a lot of stats and outscore people, or is your goal to win? At this point in my career, my goal is to win, and I’m going to do everything I can to make that happen.”
The Celtics have received permission to speak with former Clippers assistant Jay Larranaga, a former Boston assistant, about joining Mazzulla’s staff, according to a league source. But the source added that the Celtics have already met with several other candidates about the opening created when Mazzulla was promoted to interim head coach in place of Ime Udoka, who was suspended one year for violating organizational policies.
Larranaga was an assistant with the Celtics from 2012-21, first under Doc Rivers and then Brad Stevens. He was not retained when Udoka was hired in 2021, and later joined the staff of former Celtics assistant Tyronn Lue in Los Angeles.
Asked about potential staff additions, Mazzulla said, “I think for me, it’s more about just studying our environment and figuring out what we need to help our staff and not just considering myself, but considering what do our players need? What are they familiar with and what are they looking for on our staff? And so I think we’re just going to evaluate that and figure out where we are.”
Guard your yard
A group of Celtics, including Brown and Jayson Tatum, took part in a one-on-one contest following Wednesday’s session, with Brown and Tatum battling several times.
“Just getting some rust off, getting more polished in your hand-to-hand-combat type stuff,” Brown said. “Working on guarding your yard defensively and stuff like that, the little in-between details of the game. Nothing but just a good workout, some cardio. Iron sharpens iron, so just trying to make each other better.”