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Joe Mazzulla: ‘It Doesn’t Really Matter’ Who Starts for Celtics

BRIGHTON, MA — The Celtics trade-heavy offseason led to a potential starting lineup that features Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown alongside Kristaps Porziņģis and Jrue Holiday.

With questions about depth looming for the Boston Celtics after the acquisition of two star players, head coach Joe Mazzulla isn’t concerned about starting lineups, acknowledging that they will have several different rotations this season. 

“I thought that was a huge strength of ours [last year],” Mazzulla said on Friday. “Was our ability to plug guys in and I think I said it before where we won ten games last year because of second, third, whatever unit we had, our non-original starters were able to step in and keep the intensity and the execution where it was.”

The last starting spot for the Celtics will likely go to Derrick White or Al Horford. White made the NBA All-Defensive second team last season and was ranked 23rd highest in total blocks as a six-foot-four guard. He emerged as one of the NBA’s most skilled two-way guard averaging 12.4 points, 3.6 rebounds, 3.9 assists, 0.7 steals, and 0.9 blocks showing his all-around game on both ends of the floor.

The combination of Horford and Porziņģis on the defensive end could prove to be dominant. Horford commented on how he has clicked with Porziņģis:

“I feel like he’s really doing a good job with the attention to detail, especially on the defensive end with us,” Horford said. “We’re asking him to do a lot and to cover a lot of things, and already, I feel like he’s having my back, covering different positions on the court. So, defensively, I think that, for me, I’ve been most impressed with — everybody knows his offense. His offense is great. We know he can do a lot of things, but on defense, he’s doing a good job of talking to us, protecting the basket, and really staying active.”

The Celtics offense is special, with the versatility of skillsets between Tatum, Brown, and Porziņģis. They also have the potential to have two All-Defensive talents on the floor with Jrue Holiday and Derrick White in addition to Horford’s one-on-one defending in the post and rim protection in tandem with Porziņģis.

“At the end of the day it doesn’t really matter. What matters is we have to play hard and we have to execute,” Mazzulla said.

While Celtics fans anxiously await to see what starting five will mesh heading into the playoff run they are expected to have, right now it’s just about improving every day with the new unit.

“Are we executing everything we need to? No. But do we have the proper mindset? Yes,” said Mazzulla.

In terms of concerns about the depth of the Celtics bench, a few players have stood out in preseason thus far. For starters, Payton Pritchard has dropped 64 points in Boston’s first three pre-season games.

The 25-year-old who recently signed a four-year $30 million extension has impressed so far and with his newfound confidence after being rewarded for his value off the bench for the Celtics, they can only hope his momentum carries into the regular season.

Is the Celtics depth really something to be worried about? Sam Hauser can heat up at any given moment off the bench from beyond the arc. Neemias Queta is a big body that moves well and can come off the bench and rebound that the Celtics will need at center. JD Davidson’s potential appears high.

All of this aside, general manager Brad Stevens had one of the best offseasons in all of basketball and head coach Mazzulla seems more comfortable in his second year already.

When you have Tatum, Brown, Porziņģis, Holiday and one of your biggest issues is choosing between White or Horford to fill out your last starting spot, there’s little to be worried about.

Mackenzie Bruno

Mackenzie Bruno is a graduate of Emerson College in Boston, Massachusetts where she majored in journalism and minored in sports communication while playing on the women's basketball team.

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