BOSTON (CBS) — Jared Weiss of The Athletic painted a picture of the culture within the Celtics organization. It’s not pretty.
The story, which relies upon several inside sources, noted a level of dysfunction over the past season — a situation that helps to explain the trade of Kemba Walker and the shifting of Brad Stevens from head coach to the front office. It also poses some serious questions for the state of the team going forward.
Among the most notable aspects of the story:
One Celtics Player Told Blake Griffin To Stay Away
According to the report, Blake Griffin asked a Celtics player if he should join the team, presumably after he was bought out by the Pistons. The Celtics player told Griffin to not come to Boston, “because of the apparent dysfunction.”
Griffin ended up signing with Brooklyn.
The Relationship Between Brad Stevens And Kemba Walker Was Strained
The report said that Gordon Hayward told Brad Stevens that the coach needed to “establish a stronger voice” with players if the Celtics were going to win. Hayward and Stevens have a relationship that goes back more than a decade.
Apparently, though, Stevens ended up being too hard on Kemba Walker.
“According to multiple team sources, there was some dysfunction in the locker room, with the relationship between Stevens and Walker characterized as tension-filled,” Weiss wrote. “Sources also suggest that Stevens was also perceived to be harder on Walker than on other top players.”
Specifically, the report said that Walker was criticized for his defensive mistakes.
“Walker and Stevens began to butt heads, though the pair were considered to have a productive working relationship and mutual respect for one another,” the report said.
Walker Was “Pissed Off” When Boston Fans Booed Celtics
The Celtics were showered with boos on their way to the locker room at halftime several times in the past season. This did not sit well with Walker.
“Walker maintained his professionalism throughout the season but his health issues, the team’s poor performance and boos from TD Garden fans — something that particularly ‘pissed him off,’ according to multiple sources — made him sour on his situation in Boston and had spoken privately about being willing to move to a new team,” Weiss reported.
That is perhaps something that Walker didn’t experience in Charlotte, where his Hornets (and Bobcats) typically didn’t have championship expectations year in and year out.
Not Caring About Kyrie Irving’s Logo Stomp Exposed A Larger Problem
“Several team sources suggest the Celtics’ culture of competition is eroding — with more than one source pointing to the players’ perceived indifference toward Kyrie Irving stomping on the Celtics logo after the final home game of the season as a red flag they did not exhibit the same sense of pride in the organization that has been the Celtics’ calling card in years past,” Weiss wrote.
The report said that Marcus Smart remained in Stevens’ good graces. (Smart, you’ll remember, was the one who went off on his teammates after they blew Game 2 of the Eastern Conference finals last year.)
Players Not Happy With “College Offense” From Brad Stevens
If you got annoyed watching the Celtics play iso ball on seemingly every important possession, you weren’t alone. Some players grew tired of seeing it, too.
“According to sources, several players expressed frustration with Stevens’ ‘college offense’ and how the team’s best players would often get stuck in isolation,” Weiss wrote.
Obviously, when a team finishes the season at 36-36 and then loses in five games in the first round of the playoffs, things aren’t working perfectly. The massive shifts that have already been made — the retirement of Danny Ainge, and the movement of Stevens from head coach to president of basketball operations — are indicative of the team’s realization that changes are needed. The trading of Walker and the ongoing search for the next head coach represent the next wave of changes.
How exactly situations can improve going forward is not yet known. But at the very least, we’re getting a better idea of how and why things went wrong over the past year.