Celtics’ Joe Mazzulla returns to bench after eye injury

Celtics’ Joe Mazzulla returns to bench after eye injury

DENVER — Boston Celtics Interim coach Joe Mazzulla returned to the bench Sunday after missing two games with an eye injury suffered in a pickup game.

Mazzulla said he is part of regular afternoon games at Boston’s TD Garden and was hit in the face Tuesday before the Celtics took on the Houston Rockets. A short time later he met the media with red eyes and irritation, but ended up not coaching Boston’s win against the Rockets.

The 34-year-old man was diagnosed with corneal abrasions in both eyes. Assistant manager Damon Stoudamire replaced him and went up 2-0.

“It hasn’t gotten much better. I think in a situation like this I thought it was a good opportunity to trust and empower the staff and the guys,” Mazzulla said before the Celtics began a four-game road trip against the West. leading Denver Nuggets. “I didn’t feel like I was at my best and I didn’t want to be a distraction.”

Mazzulla was asked what he saw when the Celtics beat the Rockets and then the LA Clippers two days later

“I didn’t get to watch the first game. I had a hard time keeping my eyes open, so I didn’t get anything from the Houston game,” Mazzulla said with a smile. “When the Clippers game started, I got to watch it with the lights off and the glasses on. It was fun. It was a good perspective to be able to watch the team from the outside. It was also fun to see our staff and watching over the boys.”

Mazzulla said he didn’t “watch” Stoudamire because he’s a “very good coach” and was proud of how the staff and players responded without him. The Celtics have had some practice with bench changes as Mazzulla took over for Ime Udoka after suspended for the entire season for violating team policies.

The Celtics have so far refused to remove the interim tag from Mazzulla, who was the NBA’s Eastern Conference Coach of the Month for November. Boston entered Sunday’s game with an NBA-best 26-10 record.

“It says a lot more about the coaching we have in place. It was kind of the same,” Mazzulla said of his absence. “Our staff stepped up a lot and of course our players did.”

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