Former Celtics assistant coach Will Hardy returned to TD Garden on Friday night for the first time since being on the bench during last year’s NBA Finals.
Hardy was ex-coach Ime Udoka’s top assistant last season, and last summer he was hired to coach the Jazz by former Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge, who is now Utah’s CEO. Celtics coach Joe Mazzulla, also an assistant to Udoka last season, said he took plenty from Hardy during their one year together.
“He’s a really smart basketball mind and good for me to be able to watch how he navigated being an associate head coach, how he served Ime, how he brought the staff together, how he organized everything, how he handles the players,” Mazzulla said prior to the Celtics’ 122-114 win. “I learned a lot from him, just how he put his mark on our organization, especially in such a short period of time.”
Extra night in Milwaukee
The Celtics’ flight home from Milwaukee after their 140-99 win over the Bucks was canceled late Thursday night, so the team got back to Boston early Friday afternoon before facing the Jazz.
Forward Grant Williams said the players were on the plane for about 25 minutes before an unspecified issue arose. According to a league source, the team was told the pilot was unavailable to fly the plane. The Celtics took a bus back to the team hotel and stayed there again. Williams said the team arrived in Boston around 1:30 p.m. Friday.
“At the end of the day, you have to be professional,” Williams said. “It can’t deter your energy. You can’t use it as an excuse. It’s easy to cop out if a team beats you and be like, ‘There was traffic that day.’ Well, traffic, you have to be prepared for whatever happens. It’s a matter of not deterring what we’re trying to accomplish.
“We know what our goal is and what we’re trying to do, trying to win every single night. Just because we flew in this morning doesn’t change our goal.”
Before Friday night’s game, Mazzulla seemed leery about turning the travel mishap into a potential excuse. When he was asked if there had been travel issues, he said no. When he was asked if the flight had been delayed, he said Friday’s flight had landed on time.
“It doesn’t matter,” Mazzulla said. “Nothing matters. The only thing that matters is getting ready for Utah. It doesn’t matter. We’re safe, we’re healthy, we’re rested, got a good night’s sleep. Whenever the flight landed, it would have been [Friday].”
It’s certainly unusual for a team to travel on the day of a game, but Williams also shrugged it off.
“It’s one of those where you just can’t control anything,” he said. “You’re trying to get back home, but unforeseen circumstances don’t allow you to.”
Celtics big men Robert Williams (knee management) and Al Horford (back soreness) sat out against Utah. Neither has played in games on back-to-back nights.
Guard Payton Pritchard was available but did not play after sitting out Thursday’s game because of heel soreness.