“He’s been amazing,” Parker said. “It’s not easy the first year to go to the final. I’m very happy for him, very proud of him, and what he’s done with this group is quite impressive. I think Boston is going to be good for a long time.
Parker’s Spurs lost to the Heat in stunning fashion in the 2013 Finals before regrouping and winning the title the following year. He said he could envision a similar rebound from Udoka and the Celtics.
⋅ Celtics assistant Will Hardy, 34, became the NBA’s youngest head coach when he was hired by the Jazz two weeks ago. But the rise of another rising star in Udoka’s team got somewhat lost in the shuffle. Assistant coach Joe Mazzulla, also 34, was a runner-up for the Utah Open, and Jazz CEO and president of basketball operations Danny Ainge told me he had a real chance of getting the job.
Ainge said he tried to lure Mazzulla to the Division 2 Fairmont State Celtics in 2018, but Mazzulla refused because he didn’t want to turn his back on the rookies who had committed to him. He joined the Celtics as an assistant a year later.
“I just liked his presence,” Ainge said. “He just had a good idea of him and how he developed players. Then watch him hang out with Payton [Pritchard] and Romeo [Langford], he just has a great way of pushing guys, holding them accountable, and letting them know it’s a serious time. It’s not just me that he’s impressed. He impressed Brad [Stevens] and Ime and all the guys on their team.
Shortly after Hardy left for Utah, Udoka announced that Mazzulla would be promoted to a leading role.
⋅ Readers seemed to enjoy my San Francisco chocolate chip cookie reviews more than my actual coverage of the Finals, and I’m not quite sure how to take it. But you have to give people what they want, so here’s one more: the best chocolate chip cookie I’ve had in Las Vegas is at Bouchon Bakery in the Venetian. The only minor complaint is just a bit too many tokens. 8.3/10.
⋅ Keep an eye out for veteran winger Justin Jackson as the Celtics look to complete their roster. Jackson signed a 10-day contract with the Celtics as the team was ravaged by COVID-19 in December. Unfortunately, he then contracted COVID and was sidelined after playing just one game. A league source said the team was considering re-signing Jackson to an NBA deal in March before ultimately opting for Nik Stauskas.
Jackson played 255 games for six teams over five NBA seasons. He missed the start of the summer league to spend a few days with his family after competing for USA Basketball in the FIBA World Cup Qualifiers, but is averaging 20 points per game in his two games with the summer Celtics.
“Since [December], my agent and I kind of stayed in touch with the Celtics,” Jackson said. “Kind of builds that relationship. I came here to join us and play a little basketball, so it worked.
⋅ Celtics star Jayson Tatum attended part of the opener against the Heat last Saturday, one of his first public appearances since the Finals loss. He seemed generally in good spirits during a brief scrum with reporters until we brought up, well, losing in the final. He got rid of things by working on his golf game, and he said he recently hit 90 for the first time.
⋅ Speaking of Tatum, his cousin, Bryton Hobbs, was added to the summer league roster for practices in Boston last week but didn’t make it to Las Vegas. A team source said that was the plan from the start. Hobbs, 30, was a guard at Northeastern State, and Tatum’s father, Justin, said in a text message that he was instrumental in Tatum’s development as a young player in St. Louis.
⋅ Summer league results don’t matter, and most Las Vegas players will never appear in a regular season game, but it’s easy to forget how bad those times can be significant for these players anyway. After Matt Ryan conceded a last-second 3-pointer to send Boston to a win over the Bucks on Monday, he wept as he recounted his journey to that point.
Last year, Ryan was doing landscaping work at a cemetery and delivering food for DoorDash to make ends meet. After signing a two-way deal with the Celtics midseason, he had a front-row seat to the Boston Finals, and now he’s trying to take the next step.
“It’s been a crazy few months,” Ryan said.
⋅ The biggest winners from the trade that sent Malcolm Brogdon from the Pacers to the Celtics were probably Malik Fitts, Juwan Morgan and Stauskas. All three had their unsecured deals for next season fully secured in order to complete the deal. All three were waived so the Pacers could sign DeAndre Ayton to an offer sheet, but their salaries are on hold anyway.
⋅ Lifetime Celtics fan Roxbury native AJ Reeves sat out Boston’s first three summer league games but checked in in the last minute of Thursday’s win over the Grizzlies and quickly pierced a 3 point. He then beamed.
The only downside is that his mother, brother and aunt who had come to Las Vegas left after Tuesday’s game.
Adam Himmelsbach can be contacted at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @adamhimmelsbach.