The Boston Celtics went from being NBA championship favorites to a team in disarray almost overnight

The Boston Celtics should be flying high in the 2022-23 season. Having fallen two wins short of last year’s championship, they have been the clear favorites to win the 2023 title all summer. Now, with training camp approaching, they have become a team in disarray.

The year-long suspension of Ime Udoka for allegedly having an inappropriately intimate, consensual relationship with a Celtics employee — Celtics majority owner Wyc Grousbeck called it “a lot of violations” on Friday — has pulled the rug out from under the entire Organization.

Bad news has been slowly coming in for the Celtics for the last three weeks. The newly acquired Danilo Gallinari has torn his cruciate ligament. Earlier this week it was announced that Robert Williams III will undergo a second operation on his left knee which will reportedly side him for four to six weeks meaning he will start the season in street clothes.

Williams tore the meniscus in the same knee late last season and then struggled through the playoff pain while still missing seven postseason games. Is it possible he did more damage playing on a knee that wasn’t fully healed? Will this final “clean-up” procedure be the end, or will this keep cropping up for Williams, who has had quite a long injury history in his short career.

Boston certainly doesn’t hope. A legitimate contender for Defensive Player of the Year, Williams is a key weapon rolling the rim. He hammers the offensive glass. He’s got top notch DeAndre Jordan chops, and don’t forget how great Jordan was with the Clippers.

Hanging in the background, does Jaylen Brown harbor any ill will toward the Celtics for throwing his name in the pot of trade rumors this summer? Brad Stevens has noted his open dialogue with Brown, who is certainly no stranger to trade talks. But you have to keep in mind that Brown would believe he had reached a level with the organization where he could feel more secure in his standing.

It’s not a big deal. It’s just another of many possible paper cuts that led to the gash that is Udoka’s behavior and subsequent suspension. On Friday, Stevens, who was seated next to Grousbeck for a press conference that no one wanted to attend, made it official that Celtics assistant coach Joe Mazzulla would temporarily take over Udoka.

Mazzulla’s appointment comes with its own controversy. In 2009, Mazzulla was arrested and charged with domestic battery after he allegedly grabbed a woman by the neck and choked her in a bar while he was a college student and basketball player from West Virginia.

Stevens addressed those allegations on Friday, saying that Mazzulla was “110 percent responsible” for his past actions, but also that, referring to Stevens, he “believes.”[s] strongly influenced the well [Mazzulla] to what it is today in a really good way.”

I’m not here to be the morality police. Mazzulla has legally settled these situations. People can make mistakes and learn from them. But this will obviously and rightly be a major talking point for the future. Optics count. A team that suspends a coach for inappropriate behavior towards a woman replaces him with another coach who allegedly choked a woman.

You’ll keep hearing teams and players talk about being distraction-free, and the Celtics, already mired in PR chaos, just put another one on their plate. They obviously think Mazzulla is worth the headache. Stevens spoke quite enthusiastically of his ability to “galvanize a room.”

If Mazzulla is any good, questions about whether he can actually replace Udoka for good will only get louder as the season progresses. Perhaps it is planned anyway to part ways with Udoka for good. Either way, none of this will go away. The Celtics are in crisis mode. This is an unprecedented situation. They’re still a really good team looking to fight for a title, but there’s no way to say they haven’t been affected by all of this. Whether they can overcome it, well, that’s the challenge.

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