Perhaps even before the Milwaukee Bucks were eliminated by the Heat in the First Round, the Celtics were looked at as the team to beat in the Eastern Conference.
Why not? After all, Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown were both All-Stars and All-NBA selections. The Celtics, led by Tatum and Brown, had reached the NBA Finals just last year.
Despite the chaotic nature of Ime Udoka's departure from Boston and the learning curve that his replacement Joe Mazzulla had to get through, the Celtics were supposed to beat the Heat. Not fall behind 3-0 and certainly not to lose in a blowout in Game 7.
Interestingly, according to The Athletic's Jay King and Jared Weiss, “multiple team sources both on the roster and the staff said [Damon] Stoudamire’s departure to lead Georgia Tech in March left a significant void in the team’s leadership structure.”
Stoudamire, a popular player during his 13-year NBA career, “was known for having a good feel for when and how to talk to players, understand their motivations, and pull from his own experiences when making recommendations for how the team should operate.”
“It’s not like Damon had a certain power, but players really respected him,” King and Weiss report. “Joe used Damon to have a guy that’s been here that’s played that can speak to them. Damon could speak their language and no one else on the staff can do (it).”