BOSTON (CBS) — During a 10-10 start to the season, there were several times when the Celtics had to air their grievances in the locker room.
There were some loud discussions and likely a few spirited disagreements behind closed doors, but that is where they remained. No dirty laundry was aired in the media, which is pretty rare in today’s NBA. That speaks volumes about Celtics head coach Brad Stevens, who has no tolerance for such tomfoolery, and the veterans on the Boston roster.
Chief among them is Al Horford, the C’s silent veteran who leads by example. While other teams have already started to tear themselves apart this season, Horford was happy to see his team resolve (and keep) their issues in-house.
“I think, as a team, you never want anything that goes on in the locker room to get outside the locker room, so I was happy,” Horford told The Boston Herald’s Steve Bulpett. “But we weren’t panicking. We weren’t overreacting. There was a sense of urgency. But I’m just glad that there was no silliness. Everybody stayed composed, and we just understood that we needed to keep working together.”
The Celtics did not let that early season slump derail what is supposed to be a special 2018-19 campaign. They’ve since rattled off an eight-game win streak, which was snapped Saturday night in Detroit, to get themselves back in the middle of the Eastern Conference playoff picture. They’ve been worlds better offensively and defensively, and players like Gordon Hayward and Jaylen Brown have sacrificed their starting roles for the betterment of the team, letting Marcus Morris and Marcus Smart provide some much-needed grit to Boston’s starting five.
Horford hopes the early bumps in the road will help the Celtics down their path later in the season.
“It’s very rare for a team not to go through adversity in a season. I mean, I think the only team that I can think of that probably didn’t was the Warriors won 73 games, but well, they lost to Cleveland (in the NBA Finals) that year. But that regular season was magical,” he said. “And I think for our group, going through that early has made us stronger and tighter and made us understand that we need to play at a certain level and do certain things to win. So, for us, I think that was very beneficial because if we would have started out good and won some games, some of these issues that were underlying, winning would take care of that. But they’d still be there. Now all those things have been addressed thoroughly. We’re still going through it, but we’re learning.”
Not all is perfect for the Celtics, but they’ve made it clear that they can get through adversity together as a team. For a group that was essentially crowned Eastern Conference champs over the summer, that could be their biggest victory over the last two months.
The Celtics hope to have Horford back soon, but he will miss his sixth straight game with a left knee injury Wednesday night when Boston hosts the Phoenix Suns.