Tuesday, January 31, 2023

Joe Mazzulla 'really happy for our staff' after being named All-Star coach for Team Giannis

The NBA announced Monday night that Joe Mazzulla will coach "Team Giannis" in the 2023 NBA All-Star Game.

The Celtics interim and his staff will be coaching Giannis Antetokounmpo (East's leading vote getter) and some of the league's top stars -- which may also include Jayson Tatum and or Jaylen Brown -- against whatever roster LeBron James (West's leading vote getter) selects come Feb. 19 in Salt Lake City.

Mazzulla and the Boston coaching staff earned the honor by clinching the best record in the Eastern Conference after the Philadelphia 76ers got their seven-game win streak snapped by the Orlando Magic Monday -- guaranteeing the C's would have the best record in the East through Feb. 5, which was the cutoff date to determine who will coach from each conference.

The 34-year-old, that took over for the suspended Ime Udoka just days before training camp, downplayed the praise by initially saying it means "nothing."
"Really happy for our staff," Mazzulla said Tuesday after practice. "I think it'd be a great experience for our family. It's really cool that since this all started that our staff has really been able to come together and work hard together and just kind of figure it out. So really happy for them, and it just says a lot about our team being able to sustain a level of play for a long period of time and we just have to continue that."
Marcus Smart, who's missed the last four games with an ankle injury, called "Bullshit" on his coach not caring about heading to the All-Star Game -- stating that it's due the Celtics "humble mentality" this season of not putting induvial accolades ahead of returning the Finals and winning banner 18. 
"We got a lot of great guys -- from coaches and players -- that could sit here and boast about themselves, about everything they've accomplished and things like that," Smart said in his post-practice presser. "But that's not us. We love each other and we let all the outside noise do the talking for us.

"It definitely means something to Joe, and it means a lot to us for him to do it. Joe's been through a lot. He stepped into a situation that wasn't ideal for anybody, and he strived and exceeded I'm sure a lot of expectations. So we're happy for him."
Mazzulla and the Celtics are fresh off a 125-121 overtime win over their longtime rival Los Angeles Lakers Saturday night, improving to a league's best at 36-15. He becomes just the third first-year head coach in the past 24 seasons to coach in the All-Star Game and the first C's coach to be rewarded since Brad Stevens in 2017.

Despite the new format this year where teams will be selected in a draft just hours before the game -- meaning there won't be a chance to prepare -- Smart knows that Mazzulla is still excited to be given the opportunity even if his coach continues to brush it off.
"He's definitely pumped about it," Smart said. "First time being a head coach and you go to coach the All-Star Game, I don't see how you'd not be excited. But that's just Joe. He does a good job of hiding his enthusiasm for certain things and other times, he lets you know.
"We're just extremely proud of Joe and everything, and how him and the rest of this team and coaching staff has responded to everything we've been through this season. We tip our hat off to those guys."
The 2023 NBA All-Star Game will tip off live Sunday Feb. 19 from Vivint Arena on TNT at 8:30 ET. 

Joel Pavón

Photo used courtesy of Getty Images

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