UPDATE, 10:04 p.m. ET:
Boston Celtics head coach Ime Udoka told reporters postgame that the reported “players-only meeting” was hardly anything worth writing home about. According to Udoka, the players were going to get together all along, with coaches joining a little later on ahead of the team’s game against the Magic.
“It wasn’t really a players-only meeting,” he said postgame after Boston’s blowout win in Orlando. “We had a team dinner scheduled way before anything happened. That was planned for some weeks now and we gave the players their time before the coaching staff and everybody else came down.”
Udoka said it wasn’t exactly something scheduled by the players, but was instead an opportunity for the team to “enjoy each other first,” meaning before any coaches joined the fray. He also called the atmosphere “great.”
Al Horford echoed his coach’s comments: “Gathering, team dinner,” he said. “Nice to break bread together, hang out. Most importantly, talked about making sure that we come out here and have a good outing (Wednesday).” He also noted that the biggest thing for Boston “is making sure that we make the most out of this opportunity. I’m very grateful to be here with the Celtics and it doesn’t matter what has happened in the past.”
Jaylen Brown, who rounded out the night’s media availability and was an integral part of the reported meeting, called it an “opportunity to talk as a group, get some communication and move forward. We’ve been playing basketball together a long time, especially our core group.”
No matter what was said at this meeting, a 92-79 win over a middling-at-best opponent isn’t exactly going to cause all the team’s problems to dissipate into thin air. After all, Udoka acknowledged that the dinner was set “way before anything happened,” therefore acknowledging that something did, in fact, happen. But by noting that the team met at all, Udoka aptly evaded pleading oblivion; his slight downplay with a positive twist on the meeting’s nature should lead to some exhales coming from the greater Boston area. At least for the time being.
8:33 p.m. ET:
The Boston Celtics reportedly held a players-only meeting after traveling to Orlando yesterday ahead of tonight’s matchup with the Magic. According to ESPN Senior NBA Insider Adrian Wojnarowski, members of the Celtics — specifically Marcus Smart, Jayson Tatum, and Jaylen Brown — discussed a myriad of topics related to the team’s early-season performance and chemistry.
Apparently, the chat didn’t go particularly well.
Reporting for NBA Countdown on the Celtics holding a players-only meeting in Orlando – and how there remains a lot of work to be done among franchise’s key players. pic.twitter.com/1fQ7VmDsdC
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) November 3, 2021
The meeting focused primarily on the Celtics’ collapse against the Chicago Bulls on Monday, a game in which they blew a 19-point lead and allowed 128 points in regulation, as well as Smart’s comments following that game. After the loss on Monday, Smart told reporters, “I would just like to play basketball. Every team knows we’re trying to go to Jayson and Jaylen. Every team is programmed and studied to stop Jayson and Jaylen. I think everybody’s scouting report is to make those guys pass the ball. They don’t want to pass the ball. They’re still learning. We’re proud of the progress they’re making, but they’re going to have to make another step and find ways to not only create for themselves, but create for others on this team.
While that comment, on its face, appears overly critical, Smart’s true intention wasn’t likely to say, “Jayson and Jaylen are ball hogs.” No matter, though, because according to Wojnarowski, the meeting was “emotional at times,” and “in the end, perhaps not a terribly productive meeting. Maybe not even beneficial.”
He continued: “These are issues with this team and this group that have been going on for a while. They changed the president in Boston. They changed the head coach. These issues remain. Now at 2-5 and playing the Magic tonight… this is a situation that [head coach Ime Udoka] has to address and help this team work through. It haunted [Brad Stevens’] regime, especially near the end, last season.”
Don’t you love hearing the words “haunt” and “not terribly productive” as it relates to a basketball team that has played ~12 percent of its season?
The Celtics, at 2-5, have issues far more deep-seated than missing shots and allowing their opponents to make theirs with ease. Now, certainly, those shortcomings don’t help. But we’ve barely reached game number eight on the season; as of this writing, game no. 8 is literally only half over. For a players-only meeting to be a necessity — and, let’s be real: it was — is not what fans, nor likely what the organization, wants to hear nor experience.
What this report, and perhaps the play on display signify is that while plenty of changes were made during the offseason, the same problems remain. Changes at the top don’t necessarily mean success on the floor, we’re learning, and perhaps should have already known. Teammates butting heads isn’t necessarily earth-shattering news, but it’s not ideal, either. Especially eight games into an extremely young season.
One thing is for certain: the ship best be righted sooner rather than later. Otherwise, a few unsuspecting men may find themselves thrown overboard.