Celtics

The Celtics were almost shockingly ready to let Udoka go when the suitor called.

Ime Udoka is reportedly headed for the Nets, ending his one-year tenure with the Celtics. Photo: Adam Glanzman / Getty Images

COMMENT

The last question Ime Udoka asked in the media as the Celtics head coach was about JD Davison.

Udoka has been removed from just over a week apocalyptic scene after a match of 6 NBA finals. The Celtics were just beginning to dress their wounds in preparation for their next title run when Udoka turned to the media by Zoom one day after the project.

Davison – for obvious reasons – was largely a reflection at Udoka’s press conference, but after the required questions regarding preparations for 2022-23, a reporter asked Udoka about the late selection of a second round (who eventually made a bilateral deal).

“Mostly excited about the young guy,” Udoka said, then praised Davison’s athleticism and noted that Spurs – where Udoka’s coaching career began – had found some gems in the draft.

And that was it. No one at the Zoom appeal could have known what awaited – that Udoka would soon be suspended for his role in the ugly workplace situation. Behind Adrian Wojnarowski from ESPN, citing an independent Celtics investigation into the case, Udoka “used foul language in dialogue with a subordinate woman before starting an inappropriate workplace relationship.” Wojnarowski’s source described the vocabulary used by Udok as “particularly disturbing” derived from Udoka’s position of power. It seemed very important to include the word “before” in the above report.

And then – as always – the NBA world spun on. The stunned Celtics searched Media Day. Assistant coach Joe Mazzulla was temporarily postponed for permanent status, and his early success helped calm the storm temporarily until Tuesday.

The Nets – who fired Steve Nash after a poor, deeply dramatic start – are reportedly looking to hire Udoka. According to reports, the Celtics allowed interviews without incident and don’t plan demand compensation from the Nets, despite the fact that Udoka remains in the contract.

We still don’t know many details about Udoka’s suspension. The Celtics organization was a steel trap (and rightly so, after social media took part in the reprehensible hunt for a nameless woman after Udoka’s suspension). With the exception of a few well-placed leaks that paint a vague picture of what happened, the team aggressively tried to move on.

One of the few things we can conveniently analyze from all of this – from the moment Brad Stevens sat at the table in front of reporters with an unusually steely expression on his face the day after the news came out, to Tuesday’s tandem Shams and Province Bombs – is that the front office sees Udoka’s breach as a huge deal.

The Celtics seem happy to put Udoka in their rearview mirrors.

In a vacuum, Udoka’s coaching credentials are irrefutable. Prior to joining the Celtics, he was considered a rising star and a future head coach no questions asked. After the Celtics entrusted their team to him – perhaps at the time of the greatest leverage in series history in the last decade, with the Jayas swaying and rumors of trade – he took a talented group that kept stumbling on the doorstep and helped them finally get in inside. NBA Finals (with a little help from Jimmy Butler questionable shot selection).

Now Udoka is ready to take all that coaching talent – all that command and control of a chaotic locker room – from an Atlantic Division rival with a championship talent but one of the most chaotic dressing rooms in recent years. Networks desperately need direction and a steady hand, and while it is not certain whether or not Udoka can provide these things with Kevin Durant and (especially) Kyrie Irving instead of Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, his story suggests it is possible.

Meanwhile, Mazzulla was good and his players offer plenty of positive affirmation, but he wasn’t overwhelmingly good enough to look like the team’s obvious future. The Celtics offensive was excellent, but their defense – which was number 1 in almost every category under Udoka – is in Lower half league after six games.

Yet the Celtics did not question it. No compensation, no games, no further questions. Don’t let the door hit you.

It is possible that the Celtics are Mazzulla’s team now, but we know for certain that they are not Udoka’s team.

The Celtics appear decisively and completely exhausted by Udoka. Whatever he did – whatever he said before embarking on an inappropriate relationship with a subordinate woman – seems to have crossed a line that the Celtics firmly refuse to cross with him.

The penultimate time Udoka spoke to journalists when the Celtics head coach was after losing the sixth game.

“The message is that everyone comes back better,” said Udoka in his concluding remarks. “Let’s not be satisfied.

– There’s no guarantee you’ll be here.

Imagine if someone knew how right he was.

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