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Are the Boston Celtics Still Championship Contenders?

The Boston Celtics will be without a few key contributors and their head coach this year, but they still have a ton of talent.

Celtic Pride is very much a real thing, but the Boston Celtics’ dreadful offseason isn’t something that fans or the organization will be proud of entering the 2022-23 season.

The Celtics announced Thursday that head coach Ime Udoka would be suspended for the season for violating team policy, which included a consensual relationship with a team employee. While they didn’t offer specifics, The Athletic reported that Udoka had passed along “unwanted comments” to the woman he was having an affair with.

“The future is bright and we’re just getting started,” Udoka said after Boston lost in the 2021-22 NBA Finals.

So much for that.

According to a team statement, “a decision about [Udoka’s] future with the Celtics beyond this season will be made at a later date.”

The news dropped just a couple days before training camp begins, and it feels like the air has been sucked out of Boston’s balloon. The 2023 championship favorite (+550) not only lost its coach for the year, but also suffered a couple injuries to key players, while tensions linger with star forward Jaylen Brown amid trade speculation.

Let’s take a look at how and why all of this might decimate any momentum Boston had after its improbable run.

Ime Udoka

In late Dec. 2021, Boston was the projected 9 seed, fighting for a play-in spot. Udoka, in his first season, urged his team to instill more mental toughness in their games… and they did just that.

Boston answered his rally cry and won 35 of its final 47 games, finished No. 2 in the Eastern Conference, and defeated the Nets, Bucks, and Heat en route to the Finals.

As a longtime assistant, Udoka built a rapport as a defensive guru which catapulted the Celtics into the elite around the NBA. The Celtics finished first in defensive rating (106.2), opponent points per game (104.5), opponent field goal percentage (43.4%), and opponent three-point percentage (33.9%).

While his salary isn’t public, co-owner Wyc Grousbeck announced that — in addition to the suspension — Udoka will face a “significant financial penalty.” That amount was not disclosed as well.

In the meantime, team president Brad Stevens announced that Joe Mazzulla will take over as interim head coach.

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Off-Season Splurge

The Celtics went out and spent $23.5 million on free agents, and currently have the fourth-highest payroll in the NBA ($182.8M).

They splurged a bit, namely on playmaking guard Malcolm Brogan ($22.6 million), veteran stretch big Danilo Gallinari ($6.5 million), and they extended big man Robert Williams (4 years, $54 million) last December.

Additionally, the Celtics have until Oct. 17 to agree on an extension with key role player Grant Williams as he enters the final year of his four-year rookie deal. If they don’t come to an agreement, Williams will hit free agency in the summer of 2023.

Boston Celtics Key Injuries

Robert Williams

“Time Lord” is the lobs-and-blocks type of big that every great team needs. He finished second in blocks per game (2.2), while opponents shot just 38.2% with him as the closest defender — the lowest in the NBA. He also shot 73.6% last season (No. 2 in the NBA) and led all C’s players in defensive rating (102.3).

On Thursday, the team announced that Williams underwent arthroscopic procedure on his left knee, sidelining him approximately 8-to-12 weeks. This comes nearly six months after he went under the knife for a torn MCL.

Danilo Gallinari

The stretch forward averaged 11.7 points per game and shot 38.1% from three-point range in 66 games with the Hawks. Team President Brad Stevens clearly views him as a crucial depth piece off the bench. The Italy native signed a two-year, $13.2 million contract (player option for the second season), making him nothing more than a sideline clapper and potential trade piece.

The 34-year-old suffered a torn ACL in his left knee while playing for the Italian national team — an injury that’ll most likely cause him to miss the entire 2022-23 NBA season. Though he’s “determined” to get back on the court, Gallo already tore the same ACL in April 2013 and missed the entire 2013-14 season after undergoing two surgeries.

According to ESPN, Boston is eligible to apply for a designated player exception to replace Gallinari, which would give them $3.2 million to sign, trade, or claim a player on an expiring contract worth that amount.

Summer Speculation

Boston’s secondary star, Jaylen Brown, has been the subject of trade rumors, seemingly since he was drafted in 2016. In November, Boston was reportedly talking to Philadelphia about potentially breaking up the duo and flipping Brown for Ben Simmons.

This past summer, The Athletic reported that the Celtics had offered Brown in a trade for Kevin Durant. Amid the drama, Brown tweeted “SMH.”

We’ll see how that pans out. If he isn’t traded, then he can sign elsewhere when he’s an unrestricted free agent in 2024.

Of course, all is not lost. The Celtics still have an extremely talented team highlighted by Jayson Tatum, Marcus Smart, and Brown — but this series of unfortunate events will certainly cast a dark cloud as they enter the new season.

Boston Celtics’ Betting Odds

All odds via Fanduel Sportsbook

  • Win Finals: (+550)
  • Win The East: (+270)
  • Win Atlantic Division: (+125)

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About The Author
Anthony Puccio
Anthony Puccio
Anthony Puccio is a former Staff Writer at Boardroom. Puccio has 10 years of experience in journalism and content creation, previously working for SB Nation, The Associated Press, New York Daily News, SNY, and Front Office Sports. In 2016, he received New York University's CCTOP scholarship and earned a bachelor's degree in Communications from St. John's University. He can be spotted a mile away thanks to his plaid suits and thick New York accent. Don't believe us? Check his Twitter @APooch.