The 2023 NBA All-Star Game is fast approaching, set for February 19 at Vivint Arena in Salt Lake City. The Utah Jazz are hosting for the exhibition’s 30th anniversary, the first time since 1993 when they sponsored the first All-Star Game.
A Cluster of Celtics
The Celtics are well represented in the game, sending forward Jayson Tatum to Utah as a starter and guard Jaylen Brown as a reserve. They’ve got a chance at another berth as well, as Nets’ star Kevin Durant is sidelined with an MCL sprain. With two players representing Boston, the Celtics are tied with the Brooklyn Nets (who technically won’t have any players playing, with Durant out and enigmatic star Kyrie Irving now a Dallas Maverick), Milwaukee Bucks and Memphis Grizzlies for most All-Stars in the league. A pair of players may not seem like a lot, but with just 24 all-star selections in total, it’s a lofty distinction: 10 teams didn’t manage a single selection.
Boston breaks the tie by virtue of their leadership, as the Celtics’ entire coaching staff was selected to represent the Eastern Conference. 34-year-old interim head coach Joe Mazzulla and staff will lead the team captained (and chosen) by Bucks’ star Giannis Antetokounmpo. While the selections are divided by conference to start, the exact All-Star rosters that will compete against each other are decided by a schoolyard style draft: Brown and Tatum, affectionately known as ‘The Jay’s’ by Celtics players and fans, could end up facing off against one another two Sundays from now. The Celtics lead the NBA with a 38-16 record and, as such, are the favorites to win the 2023 Larry O’Brien Trophy as league champions. Massachusetts’ BetMGM Sportsbook has them listed at +350 to win it all. In-person sports wagering went online in Massachusetts at three casinos across the Commonwealth on January 31, just in time to capitalize on the betting rush from the Super Bowl. Mobile sports betting doesn’t have a set launch date yet, but the Massachusetts Gaming Commission says it’ll happen by early March, in time for the flurry of bets placed surrounding the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament.
Consistency Between Coaches
A massive part of the Celtics’ success this season has been their aforementioned coaching staff. Mazzulla stepped into the (interim) head coaching role less than a month before the season after head coach Ime Udoka was suspended for the duration of the 2022-23 season for sexual misconduct. It doesn’t hurt that the Celtics had a star-studded roster that went within two wins of a championship last season…but Mazzulla has filled in admirably, firmly placing himself in the discussion for Coach of the Year. Since Boston hasn’t missed a beat with the new man in charge, it’ll be an intriguing storyline to see who they choose to move forward with in the offseason. The Celtics have a lot of basketball to play (and a deep playoff run to make) before any discussions of the future, though.
A (Brief) Reprieve from Injuries
The All-Star break couldn’t come soon enough for the Celtics, who have suffered a skid as of late (at least by their standards): following an injury to glue guy and 2022 Defensive Player of the Year Marcus Smart, Boston has played .500 ball in his eight game absence. Boston’s training staff hasn’t laid out a public timeline for his return from injury yet. The Celtics have been careful to take time with injuries this season, knowing that they have the breathing room to be flexible with rehab as the best regular season team to date: their position as a playoff team largely secured, there’s no need to rush players back and risk further injury. The break will give them an extra week to get Smart healthy and back on the court without having to risk a slide in the standings.