Grit, Heart, and Toughness has Built the True Boston Celtics Identity
In the span of only a couple of minutes the Boston Celtics championships aspirations were dashed.
Gordon Hayward broke his leg. The Boston Celtics All-Star free agent signing has suffered a horrifying injury that will cost him the entire season. The Celtics are done. The Celtics are not going anywhere. Yet again, the Celtics will not be able to beat LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers.
What was immediately believed to be an unsurmountable injury, one that would send the ‘on cloud nine’ Celtics crashing back down to earth has done nothing of the sort. In fact, the Celtics have sat in the number one seed in the Eastern Conference for most of the season and some how have remained one of the best teams in the entire league.
“That’s really just been our team. Next man up mentality,” says the gritty Celtics back-up point guard Terry Rozier. “A lot of guys have been going down all season, a lot of guys have been stepping up. That’s part of the NBA, that’s going to happen, you will not have your starters play all year. We’ve been doing great and we just want to stay positive and keep going.”
Going into the season, the thinking was the Celtics would be this juggernaut on both ends of the floor. With great scoring depth led by Hayward and Kyrie Irving, the Celtics will be a force to be reckoned with. Things have gone completely different for the Celtics. They are 25th in the league in point per game, yet are one of the NBA’s best defensive units. They are not an offensive-minded team despite still being led by one of the game’s most dynamic scorers in Irving.
With the likes of Rozier, Marcus Smart, and Jaylen Brown, the Celtics have build a different identity, one very visible on the defensive end. They are gritty and they are tough. They are hard-nosed and they play with a whole lot of heart.
“Our coaches challenge us from day one,” explains Rozier on what has helped build the new Celtics identity. “[They] make sure that we are a defensive-minded team. All the credit goes to them. Just challenging us and teaching us tendencies and things like that. Obviously, their way of coaching plus our heart, grit, and fight combination, you get that Celtics toughness.”
For a player like Rozier, it is his style of play that has become the backbone of this Celtics team.
“I’m just pretty much who I am,” says Rozier. “I have a chip on my shoulder every game, it’s like I’m trying to prove myself every time I’m on the floor. So I’m always going to try to play hard and try to get the best out of my opponent.”
A former first round pick out of Louisville, a prominent basketball program once led by one of college basketball’s best coaches, Rick Pitino, Rozier was always known for being a tough-minded defensive player. Now, through great coaching he has received at each level of basketball and his hard work and dedication, an offensive game is starting to develop.
“[Pitino and Brad Stevens] are similar because they get the best out of you,” says the 23-year old guard. “They genuinely care for you and they challenge you as a basketball player to the highest level. Difference is, obviously Brad [Stevens] is a bit more lenient, more old school, but both are great coaches, loved playing for both. Have nothing negative to say about either one.”
Despite how the season started for the Boston Celtics, their end goal remains the same. Their toughness has allowed them to withstand and move past the trials and tribulations thrown their way and a berth in the NBA Finals remains the only option.
“I think we’re just trying to get as far as we can,” says a very focused Rozier. “I think we are trying to play until June and whoever is in our way, we have to take care of whatever we have to take care of.”
Like Rozier, the Celtics are ready for whatever challenge comes in their way.