While a handful of his players were partaking in NBA All-Star events in Indianapolis and the rest were enjoying the rest and relaxation that comes with the week-long break that the league provides for All-Star festivities, Boston Celtics head coach Joe Mazzulla stayed busy working. But eight days between games is an eternity in the NBA, and that allowed Mazzulla to take his work across the pond and spend some time learning from the man who is not just to be a personal inspiration to Mazzulla, but a man who can easily claim to be the greatest professional sports coach aliveManchester City manager Pep Guardiola.

In 903 matches as the manager of Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Manchester City, Guardiola has racked up a .728 winning percentage and won 11 league titles across La Liga, The Bundesliga, and the English Premier League. It's no wonder that Joe Mazzulla opted to use his All-Star Break to learn from one of the best.

“I study a lot of Man City. I study Pep a lot. I think he’s the best coach at any level, in any sport. It’s had a huge influence,” Mazzulla said after his Manchester meeting with Guardiola, per Jared Weiss of The Athletic. “You get an environment of what greatness is like and I’d say they’re pretty close to greatness with what they’ve done over the last nine years and what he’s done at Barcelona. It’s just good to be around that, study that, learn from it.”

The way Mazzulla sees it, there are an endless number of lessons he and the Celtics could be taught by Pep, but that education goes far beyond the lessons that can be learned about empowering players and building a winning culture. Sure, these are things that Guardiola has clearly mastered over a decade-plus long managerial career, and they're just as important to finding success in basketball as they are in any other sport. But beyond that, Mazzulla sees a number of similarities between the two sports from a tactical standpoint.

“Everybody tries to break basketball up into offense and defense, but it’s one game,” Mazzulla said. “If your transition defense sucks, everybody talks about your transition defense. But it’s your spacing and your decision-making and your shot selection, then it’s your transition defense. I think where basketball and soccer are the same is the transition is happening so fast. You can be on offense and two seconds later, you can be on defense. So the game is constantly changing.”

Yes, the game changes on a possession to possession basis, and those changes in possession are fast and furious, but Mazzulla is also trying to change the way that his Celtics play on a nightly basis, and again, it all comes back to the way Pep has managed his squads over the years.

“Pep, his style, it’s like that same Barcelona style, getting everybody involved, getting everybody touching the ball,” Celtics center Al Horford shared with The Athletic. “I feel like every couple games, Joe’s showing clips to us of possessions where everybody’s touching it and how the ball has energy. When the ball is moving and everybody’s touching it, something good is happening. That’s when we’re playing at our best.”

The “Barcelona style” that Horford mentioned is often referred to as “Tiki-Taka.” As Weiss explains in the story, “Tiki-taka is built on quick, constant passes back and forth until the defense is compromised enough to attack an opening.”

Interestingly enough, this is not the first time that Tiki-Taka has made it's way into NBA discourse. I remember distinctly, just ten years ago when the San Antonio Spurs were on their way to their fifth NBA Title in the Tim Duncan/Gregg Popovich era, a number of writers making this reference, including Jason Concepcion of Grantland.

“All I could think while watching Game 2 was that the Spurs were tiki-taka-ing OKC to death,” Concepcion wrote back in 2014. “These are the kind of cross-species meta-philosophy formulations the Spurs drive you to consider when they are at their best. No, this is not the first blowout in playoffs history. But there is a certain quality to a Spurs blowout, something about the manner in which they manage to reduce the other team to almost nothing. And so, all I could think of was tiki-taka.”

Using their own version of Tiki-Taka, the Boston Celtics are 45-12 and beating their opponents by over 10 points per game, including 11 wins by at least twenty points. As things stand right now, the Celts are 7.5 games ahead of the 2nd-place Cleveland Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference standings and once again cruising toward home court advantage throughout the Playoffs. Is another pre-NBA Finals exit in the cards for the Celts, or will Mazzulla's willingness to encourage the Celtics to play “Mazzullaball” after his visit to Manchester yield a different result?