Another win for Celtics' Mazzulla
Boston's rookie coach isn't just 11-3. He's winning in the record books, too
No coach in today's NBA has won more games than Boston's Joe Mazzulla.
Some more good news for the Celtics' 11-3 rookie coach: Mazzulla will actually get official credit for every game he coaches this season.
Regular readers here know we are annoying sticklers prone to bring up the punch-bowl-desecrating reminder that interim coaches, according to standard NBA bookkeeping rules, pass all of their wins and losses to the team’s full-time coach. The most prominent example in recent years: Golden State got off to a 39-4 start under interim coach Luke Walton in 2015-16, but all 43 games officially landed on the ledger of Steve Kerr, who was forced to miss the first half of the season while recovering from multiple offseason back procedures.
Yet it turns out that there is a difference when the full-time coach has been declared to be sidelined for the entire season like the suspended Ime Udoka in Boston.
I double-checked with the league office this week and confirmed that Mazzulla, whose mere three defeats so far include two in overtime, will be the coach of record for the 2022-23 Celtics whether or not the team lifts his interim tag. The bookkeeping rules are indeed amended when an interim coach is granted an entire season in charge.
For more on Mazzulla and the NBA's other two rookie coaches — Utah's Will Hardy and the Los Angeles Lakers' Darvin Ham — I urge you to check out my latest This Week In Basketball column published Monday:
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The (Other) Beautiful Game
The 2022 World Cup starts Sunday with pretty much no time to get properly psyched for it.
The unplayable summer heat in Qatar led FIFA, soccer's oft-preposterous world governing body, to stuff the foremost singular sporting event on the planet into our Thanksgiving holiday … after making such an ill-conceived choice for the host country in the first place that now even former FIFA president Sepp Blatter is publicly calling it a mistake. The Premier League, Champions League and too many more cherished competitions to list — all will be disrupted like never before by a World Cup sporting a Nov. 20 kickoff.
It is still the World Cup and I suspect many of you, like me, will be watching as closely as possible. There are bound to be more crossover storylines with the NBA than ever before because of the funky timing and, loving both beautiful games as much we do here, we will certainly be highlighting those crossovers when we see them.
The first we know of: I'm told that some prominent NBA players will be sporting U.S. men's national team shirts this weekend on their catwalk entrances to various arenas to help hype up the Americans’ forthcoming World Cup campaign before the lads’ first Group B game Monday against Wales.
Chicago's Alex Caruso, Portland's Josh Hart, Milwaukee's Jrue Holiday, New Orleans' Larry Nance Jr., San Antonio's Josh Richardson and Orlando's Jalen Suggs are among the players expected to participate. And word is there should be several more to emerge after arranging to receive #USMNT gear from U.S. Soccer.
Also: I hope to have a World Cup surprise or two to share with you myself very soon. Stay tuned …
Victor Wembanyama's two-game debut with the French senior national team was a clear success. The 18-year-old averaged 19.5 points and 6.5 rebounds in comfortable victories over Lithuania and Bosnia and Herzegovina that helped France clinch a spot in next summer's World Cup. NBA and EuroLeague players, remember, are not released by their club teams to participate in World Cup qualifying games that fall during those seasons.
There were eight players who awoke Tuesday morning averaging at least 30 points per game. Philadelphia's Joel Embiid was the only player to cross that threshold last season. The full list:
Embiid's 59-point, 11-rebound, eight-assist, seven-swat masterpiece Sunday in a victory over Utah was recorded as the first game in league history in which one player registered at least 50 points, 10 rebounds, five assists and five blocks. It is presumed that Wilt Chamberlain did it many times, of course, but the NBA did not begin officially recording blocked shots until the 1973-74 season. Another illustration of Wilt’s dominance: Basketball Reference says Embiid is only the fourth center since Chamberlain to score 100-plus points over a two-game span … something Wilt did (gulp) 86 times.
Updating my buddy Nate Duncan's recent tweet on the matter: Brooklyn's Ben Simmons has totaled a mere 23 drives to the basket in nine games played. According to Second Spectrum, Simmons averaged 11.9 drives per game for Philadelphia during the 2019-20 season.
A gem from the tireless Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press: NBA teams were 26-1 after scoring at least 48 points in the first quarter ... until New York's home loss Sunday to Oklahoma City that squandered a 48-point opening frame and reheated pressure on Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau.
With 51 points Sunday in a loss to Minnesota, Darius Garland became just the fourth player in Cavaliers history, according to new Substacker Justin Kubatko, to post a 50-point game. Garland's predecessors in Cavs history: LeBron James (nine times), Kyrie Irving (twice) and Walt Wesley.
There are a record 17 coaches of color in today's 30-team NBA — including 16 Black head coaches after Jacque Vaughn's elevation from acting head coach by the Nets. Those 16 include one interim coach (Boston's Joe Mazzulla) and are covered at length in this piece by my pal Marc J. Spears of ESPN's Andscape.