BOSTON -- Media Day is usually a fun day where players strike silly poses with a basketball in their hand and give out generic answers about the season ahead. Celtics players still had an opportunity for the fun stuff on Monday, but the team's Media Day had a pretty dark cloud over it.
That cloud is, of course, the season-long suspension of head coach Ime Udoka and the situation surrounding the shocking an unprecedented punishment. Celtics players spoke on the matter for the first time on Monday, and based on what they said, they are in the dark as much as outsiders.
Players were in a state of shock when Brad Stevens and the Boston brass informed them last week. Some of them, like superstar forward Jayson Tatum, found out like everyone else when the story broke on Twitter late Wednesday night.
That isn't a great look for the Celtics. And players still don't have a lot of details. None of them wanted to draw any conclusions based on the limited information that they do have on Monday, but they all said they were blindsided and shocked to learn the news.
"Initial reaction, we were all shocked at what was going on. A little confused," said swingman Jaylen Brown. "A lot of information wasn't being shared, so we can't really comment on it."
"It's been hell for us," said Marcus Smart. "It caught us all by surprise and no one really knows anything. We're in the wind like everyone else, so these last few days have been confusing."
The franchise isn't saying much about the violations that earned Udoka his season-long suspension, but there are reports that he was engaged in an inappropriate relationship with a Boston staffer. There are a lot more details and layers to the matter, which may never come to light.
There was a real sense of frustration from the players because of the lack of information, but there was also a level of understanding as to why everything had to be kept private.
"It's frustrating from all ends of not knowing. Not understanding because you don't know. You just try to focus on the things you know and the things you can control," said Smart. "It's hard to say anything because you don't know.
"From what we do know, the organization has handled it the right way," added Smart. "We'd like to know from the simple fact that it happened so fast, and everything we built is starting over, in a sense. At the same time we're here to play basketball, and people want their privacy and we have to respect that. It's all that we can do."
"It's a lot to process," said Jayson Tatum. "It was unexpected, especially coming into this season when you feel a certain way. Coming off last year you're excited and trying to do all these things. It's a lot, if I'm being honest. I guess along with everyone else, you're still trying to process it all that we start practice tomorrow."
Tatum and Brown both said that they have not talked to Udoka since the suspension was levied last Thursday. Smart said that Udoka met with players in Los Angeles over the offseason while the investigation was going on, but nothing seemed out of the ordinary at the time.
"Everything seemed so normal," Smart recalled.
After a whirlwind few days for Celtics players, now the focus will shift to what they can do under interim head coach Joe Mazzulla. Players have expressed confidence in the former assistant, and feel as though they should still go out and win a title in 2022-23.
"Do I believe that? Absolutely," said Tatum." And I think everyone else does in that locker room.
"It's not as simple as that, but that's our mindset with a lot going on," Tatum added. "The thing we can control is playing basketball and getting ready for practice tomorrow."
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