A lot can change over the course of an 82-game NBA season.
But after both the Bucks and Celtics bolstered their rosters by acquiring All-Star guards in Damian Lillard and Jrue Holiday over the span of five days, both Boston and Milwaukee are widely considered to be in a class by themselves when it comes to title contenders in the Eastern Conference.
But in an interview with former NBA player JJ Redick on “The Old Man and the Three” Podcast, Celtics head coach Joe Mazzulla doesn’t seem to have interest in looking over his shoulder at the Bucks and their potential claim as the top dog in the East.
“He’s a great player. They’re a great team. We don’t have time to worry about that,” Mazzulla said of Lillard joining a talented Bucks roster anchored by Giannis Antetokounmpo. “That really taught me something last year — There’s so much at stake, I can’t worry about what’s going on around [me], because then I’m losing sight of what we actually have.
“If you go through the season, or situations where it’s like, ‘That trade makes them better than us,’ or ‘If we don’t get the No. 1 seed we’re not going to the Finals.’ You don’t know. You have no idea.”
During his interview with Redick, Mazzulla acknowledged that he became caught up in the race for the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference last season, with Boston ultimately finishing second behind the top-seeded Bucks.
Granted, those concerns were alleviated after the Bucks drew into a tough matchup with the eighth-seeded Heat — who upset them in five games.
That first-round exit for Milwaukee, coupled with Boston’s own eventual demise at the hands of that same Miami squad, hammered home for Mazzulla that getting preoccupied with the standings or opposing rosters should fall far down on the list of priorities for an NBA head coach.
“If I spend more time worrying about those things and not appreciating what we have, one, I’m doing the players a disservice, and two, I’m not going to be as effective at what we do,” Mazzulla said.
“So, yeah, [the Bucks] are going to be a nightmare to play against. But my job is to make us a nightmare to play against too, and we’ll see what happens when two nightmares play against each other.”
The Celtics and Bucks will meet for the first time on Nov. 22 at TD Garden in what stands as the first of three meetings during regular-season action.
It wouldn’t come as much of a surprise if both rosters meet again under the bright lights of the playoffs next spring.
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