Thursday, January 25, 2024

Joe Mazzulla on moves by Heat, Bucks to compete with Celtics: 'We're certainly not the standard'

As the dust settles on the moves made by two Eastern Conference title contenders this week, the Celtics remain focused on their goal of hanging banner 18 and not what any other team is doing.

For Joe Mazzulla nothing has changed following the Miami Heat acquiring former C's guard Terry Rozier from from the Charlotte Hornets and the Milwaukee Bucks firing head coach Adrian Griffin to then hire ex-Celtic coach Doc Rivers -- despite a 30-13 start.

While both clubs continue to look up at the first-place Celtics, either East rival -- who are in second and sixth respectively -- could stand in Bosotn's way of returning to the NBA Finals come the postseason.

When asked by Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe, if the two moves by the Heat and Bucks were made to "compete" with the Celtics, Mazzulla didn't hold back on his response.
"I don't think they're competing with us," said the C's head coach in his post-practice presser Wednesday. "First of all, we haven't won. So I don't know why anyone's competing with us. We haven't won a championship since 2008. We're certainly not the standard. We're chasing people as much as people may say they're chasing us.

"We don't even look at it in that standpoint. We just have to keep that healthy balance of knowing we're a really good team but there's also other really good teams and how we match up against them and how do we continue to get better as a team."
That's a pretty humble way of looking at things for Mazzulla, as he has his players buying in thus far with a little less than 40 games left to go in the regular season.

The Celtics are a league-best 34-10, while ranking third in offensive rating (120.1) and second in defensive rating (110.3), with their offseason additions of Kristaps Porzingis and Jrue Holiday helping them become a force on both ends of the floor. 

Still, even if Boston finishes with the best record in the league come the playoffs, Mazzulla knows it means nothing if Jayson Tatum and the rest of the roster are not hoisting the Larry O'Brien trophy in June.

With the Celtics viewed by many as the favorites to win it all, they'll look to get over that hump after reaching the Conference Finals in five of the last seven seasons -- with only one NBA Finals berth two years ago that resulted in a 4-2 series loss to the Golden State Warriors.

Whether Boston makes a move of their own ahead of the February 8 trade deadline or stands pat, expect Mazzulla to hammer the point to his players that the franchise hasn't won a championship since 2008, even if the team has made it to the playoffs every year in that span except for one season.

In the meantime, the Celtics are in South Beach tonight to take on Rozier and the Heat, with TNT having the tip-off at 7:30 pm ET.

Joel Pavón

Photo used courtesy of Getty Images

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