Photo: Andy Lyons/Getty Images

The Boston Celtics talked to reporters at 2022 NBA Finals Media Day on Wednesday, as we heard from names such as Ime Udoka, Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart, Al Horford, Robert Williams, Derrick White, Grant Williams, Daniel Theis, and Payton Pritchard.

Ime Udoka looks back to when Marcus Smart told Jayson Tatum & Jaylen Brown to pass more:

“Guys are who they are. Marcus is emotional as a player and the things he says and the way he plays, and wears it on his sleeve. He may go about it a different way than others, but he is who he is. And we encourage guys to speak up. The thing about the Chicago game was that nothing said publicly had not been said privately. Although it may rub people wrong because it was said publicly, that was something we were working on behind the scenes every day, film session, one-on-one sessions. We all understood the areas we need to improve. That was what it was and we moved past that pretty quickly. But Marcus as well as the others, their leadership and being vocal has been invaluable to the group. Him and Al are the more vocal two, but Jayson and Jaylen have grown in that area and do it their own way. We love them for who they are and let them be who they are, and that mix of leadership and different styles benefits our team.”

Jayson Tatum on if he felt any concerns when Boston was losing early in the season:

“A concern, no. Were there like moments that were tough? It was just like, you know, it was very frustrating. You know, head-scratching and all those type of things. It was more so, ‘How can we figure it out?’ It wasn’t like, ‘Man, we can’t do this.’  It was, ‘We got to figure something else out.’ It was tough. There were definitely some tough moments. I always remember the fun moments — my first year going to the Conference Finals; the bubble year going to the Conference Finals when we were winning all the time. Beginning of this year, every game was like, ‘I don’t know if we’re going to win.’ It was a lot tougher than it should be, and that’s something I wasn’t used to.”

Jaylen Brown on his growth with Jayson Tatum this season:

“Last year, obviously things didn’t work out, etc., for other reasons, but this year, I didn’t feel like it was because of the way we played basketball. I just think they didn’t come together at the right time. Early on in the season, I was injured. I missed about 15 games. You know, the narrative isn’t going to say that. They are just going to say that you guys lost. Doesn’t matter what the excuse is. We’ve got a first-year head coach. We were trying to figure it out. We play in a city that has no patience for any excuses, so we didn’t make any. But as things started to come together, we got healthier. We made a couple moves in the front office that were vital for us, and things started to fall in line. I think that’s what, if you ask me, that’s what I believe. But you ask somebody else, they might say something different.”

Marcus Smart on what makes him such a respected teammate:

“One, give respect. In order for you to get it, you have to give it. To receive respect, you’ve got to give it. I respect my teammates to my fullest with my play, my words, my actions, and they all know that everything I say and do is going to be honest and true and it’s real. When you’re a real person like that, it’s kind of hard for people not to respect you and for people not to understand who you are and like you. So, my teammates get it. They know that whatever it is, it doesn’t matter. If I’ve done something bad, wrong, they feel they can talk to me, and vice versa. If I’ve done something right, they are going to give me my roses and vice versa.”

Al Horford breaks down the changing of the big man since his arrival to the NBA back in 2007:

“When I first got in, it was being played a certain way, more of a post-up, bully-ball kind of way. Then it started to shift a little bit. Guys, centers shooting midrange and more, and I started to do that. I remember going into my 3rd year, 4th year, our GM in Atlanta at the time, Rick Sund, told me, it was actually after one of my injuries. I had a pec tear. He was like, ‘You’re going to have to change the way that you play because the game is physical that way. You’re not going to make it. You’re not going to make it that many years.’ I was very physical, trying to post up against these guys that had 20, 30 pounds on me, things like that. He was like, ‘You’re going to have to start practicing the corner threes. You have to start shooting it, get out of your comfort zone. You’ve got to start shooting that.’ I could already shoot the midrange a little bit, but he was like, ‘Start doing that.’ Then Danny Ferry came in a few years after that and started to change the whole culture in Atlanta. They were adamant about it with Coach Budenholzer at the time to shoot threes, to get out there and practice. Not judge me, but just let me go out there and just shoot them away. 

“That was the way that I had to start to change my game in that way. Then it became more of when I got to Boston, with Coach Stevens, it was like, ‘Okay, now you’re going to handle the ball more at the top, you’re going to make decisions and you have to be able to stretch the floor out, but also you have to be able to roll to the basket, do different things.’ For me it was always keeping an open mind and understanding this game continues to change. If you don’t change your game, you almost become irrelevant, you can’t stay on the floor. The challenge for me has been always finding ways to stay relevant, to be on the floor, find a way to be useful. Obviously, a big part of that is defensively. Defensively I went from guarding in the post and having to stop a guy like Dwight Howard or something like that, to starting to defend guys on the perimeter, having to switch, defend guys out there, prove myself, guard guys out there, guards coming in and out. That’s how it’s evolving. That also entails preparing yourself physically, mentally, all those things to be able to do those things on the floor.”

Robert Williams discusses becoming more vocal:

“Yeah, you know, being vocal on the court was never really my thing obviously. But, like I said, we had to step out of our comfort zone. I had to take on a different challenge, just being a guy on the back line, like you said, kind of quarterback style, seeing everything. Even just talking to my teammates, letting other people know their voices can be heard. When Theis is in the game, it’s the same thing. If anybody sees something on the court, speak up about it.”

Derrick White on adjusting to the Celtics:

“Yeah, I mean, it was an adjustment. Just sometimes when you get to a new team, you’re like, ‘Where do I fit?’ But everybody has been just telling me to be aggressive, be me. Some games I’ll be just trying to fit in, just out there. People will pull me aside, ‘No, we need you to do what you do.’ It’s just good to have those reminders. I mean, I love playing for the coaching staff and my teammates. They’ve been really just pushing me to do what I do.”

Grant Williams praises Ime Udoka:

“When you think of Ime, you think of the ultimate competitor in the sense of he’s going to challenge you if you’re soft, he’s going to try to bait you into stuff, he’s going to continue to bring that edge and be mad at you if you’re not bringing it yourself. At all times I feel like he’s ready to compete and ready to go at it with somebody. I feel like that’s what allows not only us to have that same matchup intensity, that same energy and feeling, because he’s done a phenomenal job from the day he stepped into this league as a player. Imagine going now, going to Pop, going through the lineage of Steve Nash, all those guys, so he’s one of those guys that you’re thankful really to be around because he brought that edge.”

Daniel Theis talks about when Boston started to click:

When the team figured it out later, everybody was on the same page and everybody was on one string, especially on the defensive end. Teams were struggling to score against us. I think that was the biggest key, that everybody was trusting each other, especially on the defensive end. Offensively, Jayson and Jaylen obviously are great scorers, but also they are involved and they are making plays for others and getting everybody involved.”

Payton Pritchard on Al Horford’s veteran leadership:

“His leadership alone has been unbelievable. Obviously, he’s done great things on the court. I mean, his defense, him knocking down threes. But his leadership has been the biggest thing, just that veteran presence. That’s gone a long way.”

Quotes: Via NBA on Youtube & ASAP Sports