At the opening of his press conference at TD Garden before facing the Lakers on Saturday night, Celtics coach Joe Mazzulla addressed the Memphis police killing of Tyre Nichols, the 29-year-old father who was beaten during a Jan. 7 traffic stop and died three days later.
Mazzulla started by saying he was praying for Nichols’s soul, and for his family.
“There’s a systemic issue, there’s a cultural issue, there’s a leadership issue,” Mazzulla said. “Bigger than that, there is an issue of, this is a broken world. We live in a broken world where we don’t hold each other accountable enough to the simple things in life of love, respect, of treating your neighbor the right way, and loving your neighbor.
“And instead, we praise pride. We praise arrogance, we praise entitlement, and we all feel like we can do whatever we want at times, and that’s not how this world works. So our Celtics organization grieves for that and we pray for that. And it’s really important that we’re a representation of love, a representation of hope, and taking care of the guy next to us. That’s what it’s all about. And so I just wanted to share that.”
The NBA issued a statement Friday night, after body camera footage showing the beating of Nichols was publicly released, condemning the incident while vowing to continue to work with policymakers, advocates, and law enforcement to address the systemic issues.
Mazzulla, who was visibly emotional as he spoke about the situation Saturday night, was asked how he balances the situation with preparing to coach a game.
“I don’t really care about basketball as much as I care about the people next to me, the people that I can influence, and the people that I can help,” he said. ‘And that’s the foundation of love and faith and respect and understanding of the guy, regardless of what you do or who you are. I don’t think it matters. And so my identity is not in what I do, and I think that’s a message that we can learn from.”
Smart still out and Williams unavailable, too
Guard Marcus Smart missed his fourth consecutive game Saturday because of a sprained right ankle suffered in the second quarter of the Celtics’ win over the Raptors a week earlier in Toronto.
“He’s doing all right,” Mazzulla said. “It’s getting better. He’s working at it.”
Robert Williams, meanwhile, sat out because of a sprained left ankle. Mazzulla said he tweaked the joint during the Celtics’ home loss to the Knicks on Thursday. The center had been listed as questionable before being downgraded to out a few hours before tipoff.
Ham well aware of duo’s dominance
Lakers coach Darvin Ham was asked about the challenges Celtics stars Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown pose, and he joked that he saw more than enough of the duo while working as an assistant with the Bucks from 2018-22.
“You’ve just got to try to disrupt them as much as possible, just changing matchups, playing the pick-and-roll or dribble hand-off situations,” Ham said. “You’ve got to try to change up the coverages, really crowd them, double-team them at certain points of the game.
“Coverages change when they’re on the floor together to when they’re on the floor by themselves. So it’s just a constant chess match of trying to combat what they do. Both of those guys can take over games by themselves. When they have them out there together it’s even more scary. Then they have guys around them that can do you in if you’re not paying attention to them as well.”