Led by Paul Pierce, Celtics are building an elite support system: ‘Everybody loves Paul’

Led by Paul Pierce, Celtics are building an elite support system: ‘Everybody loves Paul’

BRIGHTON, MA — By the time the Boston Celtics have another opportunity to lift the Larry O’Brien trophy, it will have been 16 years since the last. But instead of Paul Pierce hoisting what is now named the Bill Russell NBA Finals MVP, Jayson Tatum will hope to do so.

The Celtics are back at practice after a long offseason, and head coach Joe Mazzulla has made it his mission to have former players around. Pierce was at practice on Wednesday and Thursday, and Tatum is soaking up everything he has to offer.

“He has a lot of stories,” said Tatum. “He’s seen it all, from being a lottery team to losing in the Finals to winning the NBA championship. So, just that insight and the little nuggets of information. Stories about the ‘08 team and things that they did that may have helped win the championship may have nothing to do with it. Just being able to hear those things is cool.”

Pierce, Eddie House, Celtics assistant coach Sam Cassell, and some other members of the coaching staff battled it out in a shooting competition after practice on Thursday. House and Pierce, in particular, were going at it, but Cassell chimed in, too.

That said, the former Boston point guard was forced to bail out of the competition early, but according to Tatum, Cassell makes sure to get his licks in.

“He talks more than anybody I ever met in my life,” said Tatum. “But Sam is a great guy. Full of energy every day, and he also has a ton of stories.”

Cassell was also a member of the Celtics’ 2008 championship team, and now he’ll be on the bench next to Mazzulla for the upcoming season.

Mazzulla and the Celtics completely revamped their coaching staff this summer. They added some former Celtics, Cassell and Phil Pressey, as well as Charles Lee, among others.

Lee was an integral part of the Milwaukee Bucks’ success under Mike Budenholzer, helping lead them to a championship in 2021 with new Celtic Jrue Holiday running the point guard. “Charles is a great guy,” said Tatum. “Very, very smart.”

Boston also added Amile Jefferson to the staff. Jefferson, who also participated in the aforementioned shooting competition, played with Tatum at Duke and spent two years in the NBA with the Orlando Magic.

“That’s one of my best friends,” Tatum said of Jefferson. “We’ve known each other for eight years now. So, it’s just cool to be back on the same team. [We’re both] from Duke, and to see him make that transition, it was great. We got a great staff. We got great people.”

With a new staff on the bench and plenty of former Celtics in the building, Boston is focusing on more than just their on-the-court play this season.

As Mazzulla said on Wednesday, the Celtics are trying to build a brotherhood. Tatum, Jaylen Brown, and the rest of the team are the ones who will be repping the organization on the hardwood this season, but they have an entire team of coaches and lifelong Celtics behind them.

Pierce is leading that charge, and the Celtics couldn’t be more thrilled.

“It’s been great. Everybody loves Paul,” Tatum said. “Great having the older guys around. Just their presence and being around [them], being able to talk to them, being able to see them. It’s great. I love having him around, and everybody else feels the same.”

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