Boston Celtics coach Ime Udoka said Saturday the team will likely select a pair of captains for the 2021-22 season.
Jaylen Brown was quick to nominate veteran Al Horford for one of those slots, and there’s a strong case to be made for Marcus Smart given his status as the longest-tenured player on the team. But it might further cement Brown and Jayson Tatum as the pillars of the franchise if Udoka elected to install the Jays as young co-captains.
The Celtics shunned the notion of captains for most of the Brad Stevens era, with Stevens yearning to empower all of his players. Boston brass named Rajon Rondo the 15th captain of the team during Stevens’ first season at the helm. Less than a year later, Rondo was traded away as the Celtics embraced a roster overhaul.
The team has not named a captain since that season.
"We've talked about [captains]. I've talked about it with the staff," said Udoka. "You've got guys who have been here, the core guys, with Marcus, Jaylen, Jayson, they've been here forever. But you got a guy like Al who's coming back and is a veteran presence, veteran voice that they all respect and listen to.
"We're going back and forth on that. You can't have four team captains but it's something that we'll pick and choose and we know some of the guys off the top that everybody respects and listens to. We'll just kind of go from there. I haven't determined it yet though."
Horford endeared himself to the core of this team during his first tour in green and often has quietly served as a leader by example. The tough part in naming him captain would be that, should the Celtics seek to add an impact talent sometime in the short-term future, the team might look to get off Horford's contract that is only partially guaranteed next season.
Brown acknowledged the responsibility that comes with being named captain but submitted a vote for Horford.
"It would be an honor, a responsibility that you don’t want to take for granted,” said Brown. "Obviously we got a lot of great leaders on our team. Even if I weren’t selected, I wouldn’t look at it as a bad thing. We have a great group dynamic and we’re all going to contribute in different ways.
"I think identifying voices to listen to, throughout the process is going to be fantastic. We’re definitely going to need, in moments of adversity, a strong voice to carry us through the waves. My vote -- Al’s got my vote right now.”
Smart is undeniably a leader in Boston’s locker room and one of the first to be vocal when things go wrong. But Smart is indifferent on the title.
"It wouldn’t matter to me if I was a captain or not,” said Smart. "Having that title of captain means nothing. It’s just a title. Anybody can be a captain. We’re all captains out there. We lead and we show our captain-ism in different ways. I don’t think it was a problem last year because we didn’t have captains.
"We’re all grown here. Gotta go ahead and do your job, plain and simple. Everybody is here to help each other (with) one goal in mind and that’s to help bring a championship to this team. If we do put out the captains, that’s fine, that’s great. (If) we don’t, same thing. Doesn’t really matter."
History of Celtics captains
|1994-95||Dee Brown, Dominique Wilkins|
|1997-98||Dee Brown, Pervis Ellison, Antoine Walker|
|1999-2000||Antoine Walker, Dana Barros|
|2000-03||Antoine Walker, Paul Pierce|