An Identity Change in Bean Town

The greatest regular season turning point the NBA has seen


The Boston Celtics are universally known for their immaculate pedigree and past championships. The Celtics have some of the most prevalent dynasties in the history of the NBA. Dating back to 1957, the Celts began one of the most formidable dynasties in the history of the NBA led by Bill Russell. Russell was never an exemplary scorer, but his defensive presence, lack of ego, and ability to rebound allowed him to be the leader of eleven championship teams. Fast forward five decades and we fall upon 2008. ‘08 was the peak of the Lakers and Celtics rivalry in the 2000s. This finals matchup featured Kobe Bryant v.s Paul Pierce, Pau Gasol v.s. Kevin Garnett, and the masterful coaching minds Doc Rivers and Phil Jackson. The Celtics won the 2008 championship due to feisty defensive prowess led by all defensive player, Kevin Garnett. Garnett did not allow Bryant to score easily in the paint throughout the entire series, resulting in a six game series victory for Boston. Then in 2013, the Celtics’ front office accepted their mediocrity and decided to move on from their former stars. Boston traded Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Jason Terry in exchange for role players and three first round picks. This trade marked a moment in time where Boston would create a Championship level team during the 2020s.


In 2016 Boston selected the versatile wing, Jaylen Brown with the third pick. One year later Boston selected their leader and perennial scorer, Jayson Tatum. From 2017-2021 Boston appeared in two conference championships but lost both. In 2022, it was Brownand Tatum’s fifth year together and questions started to arise. People began to wonder, “Is it time to break up the band?” On paper, two young, mature, and versatile wings with scoring capability seems like an incredible duo but after failure and failure something needed to change. David Da Silva comments that, “Boston needed to keep the chemistry together in order to make a run. It is a good team that can be cohesive and work well together. They have the tools.”


In the off-season of 2022, Boston made an impactful change shaping a new culture. The Celtics fired their General Manager and President of Basketball Operations, Danny Ainge. Ainge created the 2008 championship team, hit the reset button in 2013, and drafted Boston’s two young All Stars in Tatum and Brown. After the firing of Ainge, Boston made a baffling adjustment, moving their consistently excellent coach, Brad Stevens, to General Manager and President of Basketball Operations. Celtics fans were devastated by Stevens’ move to the front office but understood a change needed to be made. After Stevens moved behind the scenes, there was a gaping hole at the Head Coach position. After contemplating for a while, Boston hired Ime Udoka, a stoic and defensive minded coach. During Udoka’s NBA career, he bounced around the league as a role player with defensive versatility. After his retirement in 2010, Udoka was brought on as an assistant coach for the San Antonio Spurs. Udoka was able to get championship experience in 2013-2014 and learn under one of the greatest coaches during the 2000s, Gregg Popovich. In his first press conference with the Celtics in his first head coaching job, Udoka had one consistent message throughout the interview, defensive identity.


According to, the Celtics had a players only meeting in order to try to rekindle a sense of urgency and productivity. Marcus Smart, point guard for the Celtics, said, “It was emotional at times, but in the end, perhaps not a terribly productive meeting. Maybe not even beneficial.” Later, On December 29 and 35 games into the season, Boston ranked tenth in the eastern conference and looked like a joke. The team had no chemistry, there was no ball movement, and most of all there was no defensive intensity. Boston had a formidable roster but no direction. Then something changed. By the trade deadline Boston was 33-25. Once Boston traded for Derrick White there was a significant culture change. Lucas Blum believes, “Boston has a real shot to win it all. With the east getting worse, the Celts have an excellent combination of versatility and defensive prowess to win it all.” According to Sporting Logically, the celts went on a two month stretch from January 29th-March 27th, Boston went 24-4, had a 121.9 offensive rating and a 106.2 in defensive rating. Both ranked first throughout the whole league. Boston won eighty two percent after the all star break. Boston’s net rating is equivalent to the 2016-2017 Warriors, the greatest regular season team in NBA history. So what happened? Udoka’s discipline and Tatum’s leadership caused this change. Tatum became a veteran in his fifth year in the league. His development as a playmaker, shot creator, and defender allowed him to be a sustainable leader. Boston’s change in motivation lit a spark that allowed their continuity to be a positive instead of a negative. The Celtics changes have allowed them to sweep the Brooklyn Nets and beat the defending champions Milwaukee Bucks in seven games. Something shifted this season and Boston started playing with maturity and a sense of urgency. The 2021-2022 Boston Celtics could be the catalyst of a new dynasty.