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Adam Himmelsbach | Beat Writer's notebook

Brad Stevens’s advice to Joe Mazzulla, Jayson Tatum’s drink heist, Robert Williams’s fake-out, and other Celtics nuggets

Jayson Tatum and the Celtics are back home after a six-game road trip.Christian Petersen/Getty

Jayson Tatum was sitting in the locker room after the Celtics’ win in Toronto on Dec. 5 when he asked a team employee to hand him a strawberry Muscle Milk from the cooler. Then he realized it was the last one, so he yelled to Payton Pritchard across the room and asked for permission to drink it.

It seemed that if the franchise’s cornerstone wanted to drink the last Muscle Milk, he’d be able to do so. Is Pritchard the president of team beverage operations?

“It’s probably because my number was on it,” Pritchard said with a chuckle. “I drink Muscle Milk sometimes, but it’s just because my number was on it. It wasn’t like I’m the commissioner. It’s not like that. I wish.”


Still, it seemed like a nice gesture by Tatum.

“Well, JT’s a good dude,” Pritchard said, “so he’s not going to take people’s things.”

Before hitting the showers, Tatum kicked back in the chair in front of his locker and enjoyed the cold drink.


Celtics interim coach Joe Mazzulla was thrust into the role in September with little warning following Ime Udoka’s one-year suspension and did not even have experience as a top assistant. But he said president of basketball operations Brad Stevens, who coached the team from 2013-21, has been an essential sounding board.

“Just constant communication as far as where we think the team is, where we think we can go, what we can get better at, and what we’re doing well,” Mazzulla said. “He’s always done a good job as a coach of homing in on what we’re doing well and what we could do better. So for him to be on the outside and seeing it from a different perspective has helped me narrow in on what’s important on both ends. As a first-time head coach, to have a guy who’s coached in the NBA, has coached in a lot of big games, and has coached this team and has a great feel for what’s going on, it’s priceless.”



A group of Celtics played 18 holes at the Phoenician Golf Club in Scottsdale, Ariz., on their day off Dec. 6. I asked Grant Williams for a ranking.

“The best was Sam Hauser, by far,” Williams said. “Let’s just say he’s a Tour player.”

Williams said Hauser was followed by Luke Kornet, Blake Griffin, Tatum, and himself. Williams’s last-place ranking was honest.

“Hey, listen, I don’t want to give myself credit where credit isn’t due,” he said. “You’ve got to keep yourself humble. I have a lot of work to do.”


Celtics legend Satch Sanders said that when he sat with the Prince and Princess of Wales during Boston’s win over the Heat at TD Garden Nov. 30, it reminded him of a brush with local royalty.

The Celtics won the 1961-62 NBA title and met with President Kennedy during a January 1963 White House visit. Sanders said Kennedy, a Massachusetts native, showed real interest in the discussions that went beyond handshake pleasantries.

“He said, ‘Let’s go in the Cabinet Room and have some fun,’ ” Sanders recalled. “We went in and he said, ‘Take whatever seats you feel like, and we’ll talk about where you’re sitting.’ So if you sat in the Secretary of Education’s seat, you had to be prepared to have a minute or two conversation about what policies you would push. It was fun, and he had a lot of fun.


“The problem was his staff was upset, because he spent about 45 minutes with us. Presidential time has some value, and they were not happy. They wanted him to be ready to move after three or four minutes, and he kept saying, ‘Hold on. Just wait.’ And that’s when we went to the other room and had some laughs.”

Satch Sanders (left) sat alongside Prince William and Kate during the Nov. 30 game.Boston Globe/Associated Press


Another Celtics legend, Paul Pierce, attended Tuesday’s overtime win over the Lakers. He went around the locker room and congratulated the players after the game.


When Tatum hits game-defining shots he generally blows a kiss to the crowd. He calls his little celebration the “kiss of death.” Against the Suns Dec. 7, Grant Williams decided to give it a try after hitting a first-half 3-pointer. Tatum basically rolled his eyes at Williams, who has become the equivalent of this team’s lovable and annoying younger brother.

“He was too excited, too hyped,” Tatum said. “He was jumping. I was like, ‘Grant, it’s still the second quarter.’ So I pulled him aside and said, ‘You can do it, but I’m cool when I do it. I look cool. You didn’t look cool. You looked like a kid.’ ”


NBA players can still be fans at heart. During the first half on Tuesday, LeBron James broke free on a fast break and threw down a powerful dunk. Tatum was on the bench and he turned to Kornet.


“I was like, ‘That [expletive] was incredible,’ ” Tatum said, “because he is about to be 38, and as much credit as he gets, he probably still doesn’t get enough.”


The setup of the 12-day, six-game road trip was unusual. The Celtics started with games in New York and Toronto before playing four Western Conference teams.

But as draining as the journey was, assistant general manager Mike Zarren said the NBA actually scheduled it to reduce miles traveled. In the past, the Celtics would typically return to Boston after going to New York or Toronto. This approach resulted in fewer flights.

Zarren said that when a tentative schedule was created, NBA officials wondered if Boston’s 13-day March road trip might be too long. There was some discussion about breaking it up with a home game. But the Celtics preferred to just stay on the road.

They’ll start a seven-game homestand Friday.

Read more about the Celtics

On Basketball: Joe Mazzulla is building the Celtics’ character in his own bizarre and bullheaded way

Christopher L. Gasper: After a long road trip, the Celtics could have rolled over against the Lakers. Instead, they showed true championship grit.

Adam Himmelsbach can be reached at Follow him @adamhimmelsbach.