The Celtics held media day at the Auerbach Center Monday.
Although All-Star point guard Jrue Holiday, who was acquired in a trade with the Trail Blazers on Sunday, did not take part in the interviews, his new teammates made it clear they are thrilled about the new addition that once again made them NBA title favorites. Here are the main takeaways from the day:
▪ The Celtics reached out to the Trail Blazers soon after Portland acquired Holiday from the Bucks last week, and league sources said several days of lengthy talks led up to the deal being finalized Sunday morning.
“There’s a list of guys in the league you always think you’ll never have a real chance to get that you think are perfect fits that you’d love to be a Celtic, and Jrue is one of those guys,” Celtics president of basketball operations Brad Stevens said. “He’s an elite teammate, elite competitive character, all of those things.”
Stevens said the Celtics obviously did not know that Holiday would become available, but they knew the Trail Blazers were aggressively shopping Damian Lillard and that there was a chance that deal would eventually lead to a player such as Holiday ending up on the market. So they were prepared to strike.
“It’s not one that you predict you’ll necessarily have a chance to get,” Stevens said. “You knew the price would be really high, but he’s a guy that we think is a great fit for us and does so many good things on and off the court.”
Forward Jaylen Brown smiled when asked about the acquisition of Holiday.
“He plays with a certain force that you can just feel,” Brown said. “He’s super solid, and as a competitor, he’s an assassin.
▪ The Celtics now have an open roster spot, as well as several players on partially guaranteed deals. But Stevens said he wants to see how the current group develops before considering other substantial changes.
“We’ve had the real benefit of watching a packed gym for the last few weeks in small groups and some open gyms guys have played,” Stevens said. “We’ve been really encouraged and impressed by some of the people that people don’t talk about on our team a lot.”
▪ Celtics big man Kristaps Porzingis said he thinks the bout with plantar fasciitis that forced him to miss Latvia’s World Cup appearance was caused by changing shoes this summer.
“I think that’s what kind of got the foot a little sensitive,” Porzingis said. “I didn’t pay too much attention to it, kept working out, kept playing, because training camp was about to start for our national team.
“I was actually in great shape and feeling good, just the foot was a little bit bothering me, so I told the medical staff and they told me to rest for a few days. We just couldn’t get that much progress in a short time. So the smart decision was for me to sit out and make sure the foot gets to recover.”
He said he’s now healthy and cleared for training camp. Porzingis has struggled to stay healthy during his career but he said he’s mostly dealt with contact injuries that were the result of bad luck. He does not believe he is injury-prone. He played 65 games last year, and the number would have been higher if the Wizards had not shut him down late in the year.
Stevens said the Celtics have been “really encouraged” by Porzingis’s first week of workouts in Boston, and forward Al Horford said he cannot wait to suit up alongside his new teammate.
“Honestly, pretty unbelievable watching him go through workouts,” Horford said. “When you really see a guy like that — he’s really 7-3, maybe even a little taller — just the way that he moves, his feel for the game, and some of the things he brings, I’m just really excited.”
▪ Celtics forward Jayson Tatum was thrilled about the recent additions, but acknowledged that the departure of Marcus Smart will create challenges.
“I spent my entire career thus far with Smart,” he said. “That’s somebody I thought I might play my entire career with.
“He was the most beloved Celtic we had on this team, the heart and soul, and it’s just going to be different not to have him here. Different on the court, different in the locker room. He was a big part of the culture. Same thing with Grant [Williams].”
▪ Players such as Holiday come at a price, and for the Celtics, that meant trading Robert Williams, Malcolm Brogdon, and two first-round draft picks. Stevens was particularly complimentary of Williams, who blossomed after being taken with the 27th pick of the 2018 draft.
“It was such a pleasure to watch Rob grow,” Stevens said. “When he first got here, he had a long way to go, but he had a great attitude. He was a great teammate, and got a lot better over time.
“I know Portland is super-excited to get him. That was hard, really hard. Guys like Jrue Holiday are the only reason you ever entertain moving on from a guy like Rob. That’s really tough.”
▪ Coach Joe Mazzulla said he hasn’t decided whether Horford or Derrick White will start, but he intends to be flexible.
“Haven’t really come across what the best way to go about that is yet,” he said, “but I want to be as open-minded as we can, knowing we have a lot of flexibility in the backcourt and the frontcourt.”
▪ Tatum worked out with Celtics legend Paul Pierce in Los Angeles this summer and said it was a “great” experience.
“He was really motivated,” Tatum said. “Paul actually lost 15-20 pounds. It was about four weeks. He came to the gym every day. It was cool to have him around. He told us a lot of stories about the championship team, a lot of things we’ll try to help apply to this year. And hopefully we can see a lot more of Paul.”
▪ The offseason departures have ignited questions about a potential leadership void. But Brown, for one, is eager to step into a more prominent role.
“I think we’ve got a lot of voices that are no longer with us,” Brown said. “Blake [Griffin], Grant, Smart, all very vocal guys. So I think definitely hearing my voice a lot more this season, [Tatum’s] voice a lot more this season and making sure we’re all on the same page.”
Smart was the 2022 Defensive Player of the Year and Williams was a second-team All-Defense selection that year. Although the addition of Holiday certainly fortifies that unit, Brown vowed to be more impactful at that end of the floor, too.
“I think that at different points of my career, I’ve been able to display my defensive ability — but not enough,” Brown said. “I think that when I’m dialed in and I make sure that I’m challenging myself, I think I can be one of the better defenders in the world, and that’s something I’m challenging myself with. Meet more guys at the rim, make more plays, have more of a presence defensively, something that I’m looking to do.”
▪ Brown joined teammate and Colorado alumnus White at the Buffaloes’ football game against USC Saturday, and said he saw a different side of the soft-spoken guard.
“D-White, he’s drinking at 10 in the morning,” Brown said, smiling. “It’s tailgating, it’s college, I’m like, ‘I’m with D-White, do as the Romans do, right?’ ”
Brown and White were joined by Celtics legends Kevin Garnett and Pierce for much of the afternoon. Brown said he invited Colorado coach Deion Sanders to a Celtics game.