Celtics

‘Cohesiveness has to be on a thousand’: Kevin Garnett wonders who’ll step up as leaders for the Celtics following Ime Udoka’s suspension

"Dark times show true self in personnel."

Kevin Garnett spoke out about the scandal surrounding his former team.

The Celtics were thrown a major wrench in their direction just days before they kicked off training camp when coach Ime Udoka was suspended for the entire 2022-23 season due to multiple violations of team policy.

While the Celtics named Joe Mazzulla the interim coach in Udoka’s absence, Celtics legend Kevin Garnett still has one big question for his former squad entering the season: Who is going to lead them now? Appearing with Paul Pierce, Matt Barnes, and Stephen Jackson on a show previewing the upcoming season for Showtime Basketball, Garnett wondered if either Jayson Tatum or Jaylen Brown will step up as leaders amidst the chaos.

“The locker room, the cohesiveness has to be on a thousand,” Garnett said. “Just think about it, your ‘hoorah,’ your gas, your real leader, your general is not going to be there for a whole year. Just think about all that promise, all that investment they took on getting to the Finals and what that year was like. You’ve all been there. It’s hard as [expletive] to get to the Finals.

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“Think about going home as a loser or going home on vacation and every time you see somebody being reminded of that [expletive]. Then, you come in here to this. Dark times show true self in personnel. This is when people step up and this is when you come out and grow wings.”

Jackson agreed with Garnett.

“I think the biggest thing for them is they’re going to have to find out during the game [who the leader is],” he said. “Marcus Smart has a strong personality, but you’re not the star on this team. When it comes down to it and nobody’s listening to the new coach, who is going to have the loudest voice? That’s going to be a factor.”

The panel was in agreement that newcomer Malcolm Brogdon was a good addition for the Celtics and could be the leadership voice needed to help guide them past the Udoka situation. Though Pierce wondered what could happen with the veteran guard due to a new coach coming in.

“Thing is, when your coach is gone, your coach has an idea on how he was to use [him],” Pierce said. “So, how do you implement guys like Brogdon and the new guys you bring in because Udoka said, ‘All right, we’re going to bring him in and use him like this.'”

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Pierce believes that Mazzulla should keep the system that Udoka had in place last season due to the success it had. As for his original opposition against the suspension, Pierce explained why he took that stance while sitting with Barnes, who changed his opinion from defending Udoka to expressing concern about the coach’s actions.

“I’m going to speak about it in your defense though because you talked about it based on what you heard,” Pierce said to Barnes. “I spoke on it based on what the facts were at the time. So, even if I didn’t know or you didn’t know all the facts, this is what was presented to us. So, I’m going to speak on that. Whatever facts were presented to us, that’s what we speak on. Until you know more, and maybe you know more inside than anybody else, but all I can speak on is the facts that were given to everybody.”

The Celtics open up their preseason on Sunday against the Hornets and begin the regular season on Oct. 18 against the 76ers.

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