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Gary Washburn, Boston Globe National NBA Writer

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June 7, 2024 6:09 pm

Gary Washburn, Boston Globe National NBA Writer

Zach Gelb Show / Zach Gelb

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June 7, 2024 6:09 pm

Gary Washburn, Boston Globe National NBA Writer joins the show to discuss the Celtics’ run to the finals and what a championship could mean for this team.

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AutoTrader. All right, it is the Infinity Sports Network and it is the Zach Gelb show. Let's go out to Boston. Celtics are up 1-0 in the NBA Finals after taking care of the Dallas Mavericks last night, dominating that game. Gary Washburn has covered the Celtics and the NBA for a long time for the Boston Globe, but he's kind enough to join us right now. Gary, always good to hear your voice. Thanks so much for doing this. And how you been? Oh, very good. Thanks for having me.

Well, thanks so much for coming on. Kristaps Porzingis, that to me was the story of the game last night. His start was just absolutely incredible, both defensively with the blocks and then what he was able to do in the offensive end.

We're all wondering if there was going to be rust. Hey, 21 minutes on the court. He gets 20 points and the Celtics get a win. Just how about the performance of Porzingis last night? Yeah, it was a real surprise because we had honestly no idea what condition he was in. I mean, he had practiced with the team during a light practice this week.

It got five on five. It taken some three pointers, you know, was working out and doing basketball stuff. We had no idea whether he was going to be ready for an NBA finals game. So the fact that him coming out and scoring 11 points in seven minutes and getting into that big boost and being such a presence out there was shocking to everybody. And it's obviously a boost to Celtics needed to take advantage and take control of game one.

And then also just continuing with the Celtics. I thought afterwards I saw some video of Jalen Brown in the locker room saying guys, you know, we got to keep focus. You know, it's only one game for a team that we've seen before even in this postseason go up 1-0 and then drop game two. I thought that leadership of Jalen Brown was very big last night after the game to that. That's actually the thing I was most impressed with actually from the game was Jalen Brown after the game saying that.

It's important they focus. They haven't done anything yet. They just won one game. Dallas can still steal home court advantage, you know, by winning game two. And remember Dallas lost the opening game in the Clippers series, came back and won in the same in the situation Oklahoma City and won.

And then they punched Minnesota in the mouth and took a 3-0 lead. So this team is definitely apt to bounce back. So the Celtics are going to have to be prepared for all the adjustments, prepared for a much tougher game, much more intense game, and they're going to need to make adjustments themselves. I would honestly say that the Celtics did not play their A game in game one. I would say, having seen them all year, they played about their B-minus game. They, you know, had a little too many turnovers. They went through kind of a three-point skid, an offensive skid in the third quarter.

You know, they weren't all that great. Now they played well. They played great defensively, but they can be better also, and they're going to have to be better. What kind of performance going off of that do you expect from Jason Tatum in game two? Well, he played more facilitator. He had six turnovers with five assists.

He had 11 rebounds, 16 points. You know, he missed some shots he probably should have made, but they were also doubling him, getting the ball out of his hands. They're not going to let him just go one-on-one and turn the corner and get to the rim or hit three. So I expect he'll be more aggressive, but I also think that he'll also play within the elements in the flow of the game and not do too much. He doesn't want to get into a tit for tat with Luca or, okay, I could score. You could score. He wants to make the right play, set up his teammates.

I think he understands he doesn't need to do anything, everything anymore. And not only they have Jalen Brown, but obviously Derek White, Chris F. Rodriguez, Drew Holliday, Al Horford. They got a deep club that can help score. So Jason doesn't need to be that Kobe-like guy. Talking to Gary Washburn right now does a great job covering the entire league in the Celtics for the Boston Globe. Let me get your thoughts on Joe Mazzulla. I thought the criticism last year of him was a little unfair for a guy first year on the job, especially with the circumstances that did happen in Boston.

Obviously, when you're three wins away from the NBA Finals and you take game one, everyone's going to be loving you. But what do you think is the biggest difference from last year to this year with Mazzulla that you've noticed covering the team day in and day out? Well, I think he's made a natural growth and transition into being the permanent head coach, about the interim head coach, just being more comfortable in his own skin and his own philosophies and getting accustomed to the rigors of the NBA game, being a head coach. I also think he's got a good staff around him with guys like Charles Lee, who will be taking the Charlotte Hornets job when the season ends, and then veteran Sam Cassell, who's been around a long time and a three-time champion.

And I just think Joe's become more confident, more assertive in his in his philosophies. And the players believe in him, too. He is only 35 years old, so he can't come at the players like a like, you know, emotional coach, coach player situations where the father-son situation where you're you're old enough to be their father, he's going to be their big brother. And with Al Horford, he's older than his little brother. But he comes across as a brotherly type, you know. He accepts, he definitely respects their opinions, has discussions, and so they view him that way as opposed to a general, natural, or traditional coach-player relationship. And I think that's done wonders for Joe is how he relates to his players.

Gary Washburn here with us. Bring it up, Al Horford. If he wins this championship, and the Basketball Hall of Fame is not just what you do in the pros, where he's a five-time All-Star and then he would be an NBA champion, but you also factor in what he did in college, which is win two titles at Florida. Does this championship make Al Horford a basketball Hall of Famer in your opinion? Well, considering who has gotten in recently, if you look at like a guy like Chris Webber, you're like a guy like Grant Hill, guys like Bobby Jones, guys who have had nice careers, strong careers, but you wouldn't maybe say with a Hall of Fame. I think Horford's definitely in that conversation because, as you said, they include college accomplishments.

So a two-time national champion is going to be great for his resume than a five-time All-Star, a champion if they happen to win it this year, a guy who in a lot of ways he should be applauded because he's kind of set the standard for the most post-heavy forwards. I mean Al came into the league as a post player and he extended his career probably by five years by learning how to shoot the three. And now you see a lot of gigs over the years who have followed Horford in that path of saying, okay, I can no longer be the rebound and short jump hook guy.

I've got to stretch the floor. I've got to learn how to shoot from the perimeter. I've got to blend in with this new NBA that stresses three-pointers. And so I think he's kind of a trailblazer when it comes to that because not a lot of bigs did that. They were already, guys like Paul Gasol and some of the bigs from Europe were naturally post, sorry, perimeter players. Al was just a post player. He was a big in his early years in Atlanta and now he's turning to a guy who can hit seven or eight threes in a game. So I do think this definitely adds to a resume that's likely a hall of fame resume.

It's a good point. You've seen that development with Brook Lopez as well, who I don't think shot a three-pointer until like his last year with the Nets and then obviously Milwaukee has taken that to a different level. Gary Washburn is here with us. I was watching the game last night and they go into the locker room at halftime and they show Jason Kidd just begging his team to basically kind of loosen up and just have fun. Was the moment just too big in game one for the Mavericks last night when you look back at it? Yeah, I wouldn't necessarily say they were like shell shocked, but I would say that they just seemed like once the Celtics punched back, they got discouraged. And once shots didn't go down, head started to fall and Luca just didn't have that energy and Kyrie seemed discouraged because Kyrie's now lost 11 in a row, his team playing the Celtics.

So I think heads kind of flumped a little bit at halftime. And even though I thought they made that late first second quarter run, it was a 29 point lead, suddenly it was 21 and 21 point leads in the NBA aren't that hard to overcome anymore, that they were still very much in the game, but it just seemed like he had said that his team was just not quite right and tried to get him motivated. Yeah, how about Kyrie? Because leading into this NBA finals, he gave you as close as a mea culpa that Kyrie Irving would give for what happened in Boston a few years ago and the way that he handled that, going back and the interactions with the fans. Then last night after the game, you hear two stories, one coming from Kyrie where he thought the fans would be a little bit louder. And then Mike Gorman was on the sports hub today and he was saying that I guess a fan and Kyrie were John back and forth for a few minutes during the game.

Where are you at with Kyrie? And I'll continue to handle the Boston crowd worried about letting someone else pick out the perfect avocado for your perfect. Impress them on the third date guacamole.

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Go to or download the TuneIn app to start listening. Well, I just, I thought the crowd was very much enthusiastic through it and loud. I think there were more pro Celtics and supportive of what the Celtics are doing as opposed to like, okay, we're really going to give Kyrie a hard time here. Like I think they were, you know, they booed him and they obviously don't like when he makes a shot, they cheer when he misses or he gets blocked, you know, when he makes a bad play or a turnover, they love that. But I don't think there was much into like, okay, we're just going to, we're here to, we're here to give Kyrie just a hard time.

We're here to just berate him. I think they were more into what the Celtics were doing. And so they might've been a little quieter in terms of like their vitriol toward Kyrie than they have in the past.

But I also think there were more into like, we got to get this game. Our team needs to play well. We want to cheer them on as opposed to like, let's make Kyrie's night hard.

So you have the angle of the local coverage of Boston for the Boston Globe. And then obviously you cover the entire league, like from afar nationally, since Brad Stevens has moved into the president of basketball operations role for us, he's kind of been out of sight, out of mind. We know what he did as a coach there. He didn't win a championship, but he was still good. But those two deals that he made, get him rid of Marcus Smart, bringing in Porzingis, and then using that first round pick as part of that deal to go get Drew Holliday.

If they go win three more games, you know, what do you think the conversation is going to be in the way that people start to talk about Brad Stevens in this chapter? Yeah, he's done a great job as general manager. You know, he's rebuilt the roster. He signed Derek White or sorry, acquired Derek White, brought back Al Horford, you know, was able to dump that Kimball Walker contract. And, you know, the unfortunate part about that was I think Walker was a great fit in Boston, but his knees just kind of gave out.

So they had to kind of move on from that deal. He's rebuilt the roster. Obviously, as a coach, I think he was good, but I think his time kind of ran out.

I think he thought his voice was kind of losing its impact in the last couple of years in Boston. And then I think the fact that he's been able to rebuild the roster, trading some first round picks, getting in some better and find some guys, developmental players who really helped and have helped has been just a great thing, obviously, with the franchise. And they've definitely, you know, taken a step forward. But now the only thing stopping this, I guess, from being a great story is winning a championship.

And that's what they're going after now. Last thing for Gary Washburn, just because Boston last night was the epicenter of the basketball universe. Clearly, the Lakers found their way into the conversation with this Danny Hurley story. I kind of think Hurley's going to take the job just being in Boston last night and that being a part of the NBA Finals coverage. What are your thoughts on the Danny Hurley situation as you meet him with the Lakers right now and has that decision to make?

Yeah, I do think it's tempting for him. I mean, he's won back to back championships. And so the question is, well, what more can he do at UConn? I mean, could he try to go for three in a row and be a super dynasty?

He could do that. How much does he love the college game? How much does he love what's going on in transfer portal and NIL and all these things that have kind of chased coaches like Jay Wright and Mike Krzyzewski and Roy Williams kind of away into retirement. You know, and when you deal with the NBA, you deal with professionals, you deal with highly played players, but all about is basketball.

You know, you sign free agents, you coach, you're not recruiting, you're not out there, you know, texting 16 year olds about, you know, when you're going to come visit us, you know, none of that's a part of it. So I think that's intriguing for him. Obviously the paycheck, living in LA, although he doesn't really strike me as an LA guy, but I think that all worked out.

And I think that he, a chance to build, probably help build the roster and build a championship caliber club is sure as tempting to him in addition to the, obviously the salary. He is Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe. Gary, appreciate the time as always. Thank you.

Thanks a lot. There he is. Gary Washburn joining us from the Boston Globe covers the Celtics and the NBA. Okay. Picture this. It's Friday afternoon when a thought hits you.

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