The Summer League Celtics want to win and are embracing the pressure to do so (2024)

Fresh off Banner 18, the Boston Celtics are keeping Banner 18.5 square in their sights. After years of failure, they finally got over the hump, but just a few weeks later, they find themselves locked back in like they never left. Boston wants the Summer League crown.

“It’s the Celtics. Of course,” Summer League head coach DJ MacLeay said when asked if he feels pressure to win. “The expectation is to win here, and we enjoy that and welcome that.”

The Celtics put together a stacked Summer League roster that includes five players from last season’s roster, two drafted rookies, and six other intriguing youngsters.

Among the latter bunch are Eddie House’s son, Jaelen, Jayson Tatum’s high school teammate, Tyler Cook, and Xavier Tillman’s former teammate Killian Tillie.

MacLeay has been with the Celtics since 2021 and remained with the team after Joe Mazzulla took over. Since then, he’s consistently moved up the bench. And now, he’s hoping to instill the same philosophies that just helped Boston win a championship into his Summer League squad.

“I think the main goal for Summer League is building a mindset,” said MacLeay. “A mindset of what we have with an expectation and a mindset of what we have with [our] normal team.

“And then I think in general from [an] Xs and Os perspective, we’re trying to instill offensively and defensively principles, themes, concepts, things that our normal team does with these guys here, and we’re trying to build that into what they do and how they play.”

The Summer League Celtics want to win and are embracing the pressure to do so (1) Photo by Chris Marion/NBAE via Getty Images

As for his own head coaching style, he’s still toying around with it. But he’s definitely going to let his voice be heard.

“I would say I’m definitely figuring it out,” MacLeay said. “Yeah, I’m learning. I’m growing. I don’t know yet. I can tell you for a fact that I’m loud. So, you’ll hear me. I just don’t know how I’ll do that.”

Through MacLeay’s first few practices with the Summer League Celtics, competitiveness has been the theme. Whether it’s the returning guys, Boston’s rookies, or the players looking to break into the league, everyone is leaving their heart on the floor.

Baylor Scheierman, who the Celtics drafted with pick No. 30, played his final two years of college ball at Creighton after three years with South Dakota State. During his collegiate career, he faced off against some of the guys on Boston’s Summer League squad.

He knows how hard they play, and he’s seen it from them and everyone else in the first few Auerbach Center sessions.

“I played against Jordan Walsh in college and played JD Davison in college,” Scheierman said. “Obviously, both terrific athletes and very skilled. They like to compete.

“I think that’s the biggest thing that I’ve seen just from all my teammates is just on the competitiveness and the willingness to be, humility, and then just, we share the ball well, which is a lot of fun to play with.”

Scheierman put himself and House at the top of the competitiveness pedestal.

“Shoot, I’ll say myself,” Scheierman said. “Jaelen House is pretty competitive as well. But like we said earlier, we got a lot of guys that like to compete, and that makes practice a lot of fun.”

The Summer League Celtics want to win and are embracing the pressure to do so (2) Photo by Porter Binks/Getty Images

And the players have gotten the same energy from MacLeay and his coaching staff.

“I just like [that they are] very personable,” Sceierman said of the coaches. “They relate to you well, and they bring a lot of energy, and that just makes practice a lot more fun, a lot more competitive, when the coaches are bringing that as well.”

Even after monopolizing Boston’s confetti supply while celebrating their biggest accomplishment in 16 years, the Celtics were ready to snap right back to business.

The organization puts an emphasis on winning, no matter what level they’re playing at. Whether it be competing for an NBA Championship, a G League Championship, or a Summer League Championship, they want the glory.

“Just winners,” Watson said of his first impression of the Celtics. “Legacy. Just the mentality towards everything. The first time we met [I was] in here, they said, ‘It’s different here.’ So, that’s kind of the vibe you get here. I think they’ve got the right approach on things.”

JD Davison and Drew Peterson will be back on two-way contracts next year, and Watson could be the early favorite to land the third after the Celtics drafted him with the No. 54 pick.

That, combined with the likelihood that they leave the 15th roster spot open to preserve flexibility and lighten their luxury tax bill, means the chances of making the team out of Summer League are slim.

But they aren’t zero.

“I’ll always say, we’re always keeping our eyes open and everything,” said assistant general manager Austin Ainge. “But we feel pretty good about things, and we have the core all in place. But yeah, we’re always looking.

“That’s a message for these Summer League guys, is that they’re not just competing with the guys on the court, they’re competing with guys on all the Summer League teams, and other guys that are sitting at home, and other guys that are playing in the Olympics. It’s a big world with a lot of talent, and our job is to be always evaluating.”

The Summer League Celtics want to win and are embracing the pressure to do so (3) Photo by Chris Marion/NBAE via Getty Images

Above all, the Celtics just want to help their group improve. MacLeay wants to win Summer League gold, and the team does, too, but they understand what this set of games can do for the players.

MacLeay is ready and eager to help them get moving on the right path in the basketball world.

“First and foremost, there’s a mindset of improvement, right?” MacLeay said. “Like three weeks ago, yesterday, we were in the Garden winning a championship, right? And now we’re here in a situation where we have an opportunity to grow towards the next one. And I think, thinking back on the past of Sam Hauser and Payton Pritchard, those guys started their growth points here.

“And I think that each year you get an opportunity to do this, it’s a time to get better, and for them, they each have individual things that they’re working on from a basketball perspective, but it’s the mindset of growth. How can you get better each and every day? How can you start that journey towards the next title? How can you start that journey towards the next season? I think are things that we’re working towards and trying to do here.”

The Summer League Celtics want to win and are embracing the pressure to do so (2024)

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