Joe Mazzulla preaches 'love,' not scrutiny, toward Celtics stars

League: NBA

Posted on: 31 May, 2024 at 08:24 PM

Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

With a long wait for the NBA Finals begin, Boston Celtics head coach Joe Mazzulla made it known that there is one narrative he will not delve into any further in the days before Game 1 arrives Thursday.

The relationship between Celtics stars Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum has been analyzed for years. Brown is Boston's former No. 3 overall pick in 2016 out of Cal, and Tatum was selected No. 3 overall from Duke a year later.

The draft pick slots were acquired through a pair of savvy trades by the Celtics' front office and have restored a winning culture to a legendary franchise, but drama has followed the duo since they were paired together in the NBA.

While talk of the fractured dynamic has slowed somewhat in recent years, Mazzulla was asked about it potentially being a talking point before Game 1 when the Dallas Mavericks visit Boston.

"I'm kind of (considering) how deep I want to get into that because the whole thing about that really (angers me)," Mazzulla said at a news conference Friday. "I think it's unfair to both of them and I think it's stupid that people have to use those two guys' names and use information they don't know to create click bait so that they can stay relevant."

The Brown-Tatum duo has never missed the playoffs. In fact, they have led Boston to the Eastern Conference finals in five of the past seven seasons and into the NBA Finals this season and in 2022, when they fell to the Golden State Warriors.

A bruising forward with long-distance shooting range, Tatum has finished at least sixth in NBA MVP voting in each of the past three seasons. Brown, an All-Star in three of the past four seasons, is a scoring guard who has averaged at least 20 points in each of the past five seasons.

"It's very unfair that those two get compared," Mazzulla said. "They're two completely different people, two completely different players. They're great teammates, they love each other and they go about winning and they go about their process in a different way. So why they have to be lumped together I think is unfair and people just use it for their own (relevance)."

Brown, 27, averaged 23.0 points with 5.5 rebounds and 3.6 assists in 70 regular-season games. Tatum, 26, averaged 26.9 points with 8.1 rebounds and 4.9 assists in 74 games.

"We need each other," Tatum said in October, per The Boston Globe. "We can have enough individual success, making All-NBA and All-Stars and getting contracts, but ultimately we know what is going to matter: if we can hang a championship banner.

"It's a long season, playoffs is long, and we understand I won't be able to win a championship without him and he won't be able to do it without me."

Boston was far and away the NBA's best team in the regular season with a 64-18 record that was good for a .780 winning percentage. No other team had better than a .695 winning percentage.

"At the end of the day, those two guys, their relationship is their relationship," Mazzulla said. "They love each other, they push each other every single day in practice, they communicate with each other but they go about winning differently.

"I think they both get an unfair (treatment) being compared to each other. They're different. You see other duos around the league that don't have to go through that and it's because of the platform they have, it's because they have been so successful their entire careers, they've been able to have longstanding success at a high, high level so people need them in order to stay relevant."

The Celtics' dominance has extended into the playoffs with a 12-2 record, although each team they defeated -- Miami Heat, Cleveland Cavaliers, Indiana Pacers -- was missing key pieces.

Now Boston enters the NBA Finals on an seven-game winning streak, with Tatum scoring 26.0 points with 10.4 rebounds and 5.9 assists in 14 playoff games. Brown is at 25.0 points with 6.1 rebounds and 2.6 assists in 14 games.

"They're two of the greatest teammates and players you can have and it's been a honor to coach both of them," Mazzulla said. "It doesn't mean they have to be the same, so it's bull---t. And I love both of them and they deserve better."

--Field Level Media