Ime Udoka

Atlantic Notes: Tatum, Harrison, Vildoza, Knicks

Speaking to Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe, Celtics All-Star forward Jayson Tatum discussed the hiring of new Boston head coach Ime Udoka, logging time with Team USA in this summer’s Tokyo Olympics, and more.

“Extremely happy about Ime,” Tatum said of Udoka. “I’ve known him for a little while. He’s extremely motivated and I think everybody has a good feeling about this. I think this is going to be great.” Tatum noted that he and fellow Celtics All-Star Jaylen Brown were both consulted as the team interviewed a variety of head coach candidates.

“It was tough, just everything that we had to endure, everything that kind of happened,” Tatum said of the Celtics’ disappointing 2020/21 season, which saw the club finish as the No. 7 seed in the East and lose in the first round to the Nets. “It put in perspective and made me appreciate those good years that we had and we made those deep playoff runs. It’s not always guaranteed and it made me appreciate that.”

There’s more out of the Atlantic Division:

  • Shooting guard D’Angelo Harrison is scheduled to attend the Sixers‘ mini-camp later in July, tweets Emiliano Carchia of Sportando. Since going undrafted out of St. John’s in 2015, the 6’4″ 27-year-old has played for a variety of international teams. During the 2020/21 season, Harrison played for Italian League club New Basket Brindisi.
  • Newly-added Knicks point guard Luca Vildoza showed off his sharpshooting bona fides during an Olympics exhibition match for Team Argentina last Saturday, as Marc Berman of the New York Post details. Vildoza connected on three of his eight three-point looks in the 87-84 loss to Team Australia.
  • The Knicks have a clear need to upgrade their starting point guard position. With that in mind, Ian Begley of SNY.tv examines several restricted free agent options for New York, noting that lead guards who are not ball-dominant (including Lonzo BallKendrick Nunn, and Devonte’ Graham) could be ideal fits alongside All-Star forward Julius Randle, who thrives with the ball in his hands.

Atlantic Notes: Durant, Udoka, Sixers, Nurse

Kevin Durant proved he’s still an elite player after his long absence following Achilles surgery, but he won’t hold fond memories of this season because of the way it ended, writes Brian Lewis of the New York Post. The Nets went through an epic second-round battle with the Bucks before falling in overtime of Game 7, and Durant said on his “Boardroom: Out of Office” podcast that the disappointment overshadows everything else.

“I’m getting so many congratulations now: I didn’t do anything. We lost,” he said. “I knew I could play, I knew I was nice. I’ve scored 48 before. I had big games before, I made big shots before. So it didn’t feel like anything special to me, because we lost.”

Durant deserves credit for changing the culture around the franchise, Lewis adds. His decision to join the team as a free agent in 2019, along with Kyrie Irving, instantly made Brooklyn one of the glamor spots in the NBA. The addition of James Harden in a January trade turned the Nets into title favorites, maybe for several years.

“Just the camaraderie we built with the fans. The culture we kind of built around Barclays and just Nets culture in general,” Durant said. “People kind of look at the Nets now and like, ‘All right, they can be contenders next year.’ I like that part of it. I was excited about that going forward. I was excited about that even in the regular season. It felt pretty solid to start to build a culture. I feel like a lot Nets fans feel like, ‘Yo, we got a chance.’ To make some noise next year.”

There’s more from the Atlantic Division:

  • Ime Udoka‘s duties with Team USA in the Olympics may prevent him from coaching the Celtics‘ Summer League squad, according to Adam Himmelsbach of The Boston Globe. New head coaches often handle Summer League teams, but the gold medal game in Tokyo is set for August 7, a day before the start of play in Las Vegas. Himmelsbach expects Romeo Langford, Payton Pritchard and Aaron Nesmith to all be part of Boston’s contingent, along with Moses Brown, who was acquired from the Thunder in a trade last month.
  • The quick turnarounds by the Suns and Hawks, who both missed the playoffs last season, shows that teams don’t need to go through years of losing like the Sixers did with “The Process,” argues Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer.
  • Raptors coach Nick Nurse isn’t sure of his future as head coach of the Canadian national team, tweets Blake Murphy of The Athletic. Canada will miss the Olympics after falling to the Czech Republic in a qualifying tournament Saturday. “I love coaching and I love coaching this team, and Toronto, and I’m just trying to help basketball grow,” Nurse said. “… I just want this team to be as good as it can possibly be.”

Celtics Notes: Smart, Udoka, Stevens, Tatum

New Celtics coach Ime Udoka considers Marcus Smart to be a “foundational piece” for the future, tweets Chris Forsberg of NBC Sports Boston. Udoka made the comments during a radio interview today, indicating that the team will rely heavily on Smart, who’s expected to take over as point guard following the trade of Kemba Walker to Oklahoma City.

“What Marcus brings is invaluable, it’s the heart and soul of the team at times,” Udoka said. “… He has that edge and toughness about him … He’s another foundational piece … What he does for Jaylen (Brown) and Jayson (Tatum) is invaluable, in my eyes” (Twitter link).

Smart will make $14.3MM next season on the final year of his contract. The Celtics may try to work out an extension to keep him from reaching free agency next summer.

There’s more from Boston:

  • In his introductory press conference Monday, Udoka said he’s looking forward to helping the Celtics’ young stars improve, per Tim Bontemps of ESPN. Udoka revealed that he has met with Smart, Brown and Tatum, and they all expressed a desire to be pushed. “I’m not worried about our group worrying about hard coaching,” Udoka said. “They are asking for that, and it’s something I’m going to bring to the table.”
  • President of basketball operations Brad Stevens started his coaching search with a long list of names, but conversations with his players pushed him toward Udoka, Forsberg writes in a full story. Boston’s three stars had experience with Udoka as part of Team USA in the 2019 FIBA World Cup and they all recommended him. “I’m quick to put my arm around guys but also quick to hold them accountable,” Udoka told reporters. “And so there’s a fine balance there. But that’s all based on relationships and respect and what I do demand from those guys.”
  • Tatum was disappointed to be left off the All-NBA team and not just because of the money it cost him, relays Darren Hartwell of NBC Sports Boston. Tatum discussed the decision, which could have added $32.6MM to his contract extension, in an appearance on the Kicks’ “Beyond the Press” podcast. “I wasn’t necessarily upset about losing the money,” he said. “I think I just felt like the way I was playing, everything I did, I thought it should have been a no-brainer. I think I was just more frustrated with that.”

Celtics To Hire Will Hardy As Assistant

The Celtics are finalizing a deal to add veteran Spurs assistant Will Hardy to Ime Udoka‘s new coaching staff, reports Jay King of The Athletic (Twitter link).

[RELATED: Celtics Hire Imu Udoka As Head Coach]

It’s a nice get for Boston and for Udoka, who worked as a Spurs assistant himself from 2012-19. Hardy joined San Antonio’s video department in 2011 and was later promoted to the coaching staff in 2015, so he and Udoka have several years of experience working together.

Hardy and Udoka were also both on Gregg Popovich‘s Team USA staff at the 2019 World Cup. Udoka reportedly developed a connection with Celtics players Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, and Marcus Smart during that time with the U.S. national team, which helped earn him Boston’s head coaching job.

Hardy has some Massachusetts roots, as he played his college ball at Williams College. He coached several of the Spurs’ Summer League teams between 2015-18, and has also received some consideration as a head coaching candidate in the past, having been linked to the Pacers, Knicks, and Thunder when they were conducting coaching searches in 2020.

There’s an expectation that the Celtics will continue to target experienced assistants to fill out their coaching staff in order to put first-time head coach Udoka in the best position to succeed.

Celtics Hire Ime Udoka As Head Coach

JUNE 28: Five days after his deal with the Celtics was first reported, Udoka has been officially announced as the team’s new head coach. The organization issued a press release confirming the news.

“I would like to welcome Ime, Nia, Kez, and Massai to the Boston Celtics. Among the many outstanding qualities that Ime brings to the table are his character, humility, and competitiveness. He has a relentless work ethic and a vast array of experiences as a player and coach,” Stevens said in a statement. “He’s a leader that is warm and demanding, and we are so excited that he has chosen to join us in pursuit of Banner 18.”


JUNE 23: New Celtics president of basketball operations Brad Stevens has made a decision on his replacement, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN, who reports (via Twitter) that Boston is finalizing a deal to hire Nets assistant Ime Udoka as the team’s new head coach.

Udoka, who appeared in over 300 NBA games as a player for the Lakers, Knicks, Blazers, Spurs, and Kings, transitioned into coaching following his retirement in 2012. He spent seven years as an assistant on Gregg Popovich‘s staff in San Antonio before joining the Sixers for the 2019/20 season. He was hired by the Nets last fall and focused on Brooklyn’s defense as one of the top assistants on Steve Nash‘s staff.

Udoka has interviewed for several open head coaching positions in recent years, having been linked to the Bulls, Pacers, Knicks, and 76ers a year ago and to the Cavaliers in 2019. He was due for a shot at a top job and quickly separated himself from the Celtics’ other candidates during the team’s coaching search, tweets Wojnarowski.

According to Woj, a number of Celtics players who participated in the 2019 World Cup for Team USA were impressed by Udoka, who was an assistant on the U.S. staff. Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, and Marcus Smart all played on that team.

The Celtics’ head coaching job opened up three weeks ago when Danny Ainge stepped down from his position as the organization’s president of basketball operations and Stevens was moved into that role. Stevens, who led the coaching search, has had a busy first month on the job — he also completed the first trade of the NBA offseason, sending Kemba Walker to Oklahoma City last week.

The Celtics are the first team to complete a head coaching search this offseason, ahead of the Mavericks, Pacers, Pelicans, Magic, Blazers, and Wizards.

Atlantic Notes: Udoka, Smart, Raptors, De Colo, Simmons

New Celtics head coach Ime Udoka was intrigued by the chance to work under Brad Stevens, a president of basketball operations uniquely positioned to understand Udoka’s role as well as anyone, writes Adam Himmelsbach of The Boston Globe.

The Celtics, in turn, were drawn to Udoka due to his work ethic, his pedigree – including his experience working under Gregg Popovich – and his ability to connect with a young team. According to Himmelsbach, during Udoka’s previous stints as an assistant, he’d often go out for dinner with players to learn more about them.

Udoka’s final interview with the Celtics took place on Sunday, with Stevens, team owners Wyc Grousbeck and Steve Pagliuca, and VP of player development Allison Feaster all present. While that group ultimately made the decision to hire Udoka, the C’s also sought input from former president of basketball ops Danny Ainge and multiple players, including Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, Himmelsbach notes.

As Udoka takes the reins in Boston, he’ll be tasked with rebuilding the Celtics’ defensive identity and developing the club’s young talent, Kevin Pelton of ESPN writes in an Insider-only story. Pelton suggests that Udoka may also prioritize increasing the team’s ball movement and putting players in positions to create shots for teammates — Boston’s rate of assisted field goals ranked 27th in the NBA in 2020/21.

Here’s more from around the Atlantic:

  • Marcus Smart isn’t a traditional point guard, but he’s a “criminally underrated” passer, according to Chris Forsberg of NBC Sports Boston, who outlines why Smart could be the Celtics‘ starter at the point in 2021/22 with Kemba Walker gone.
  • The Raptors secured the fourth overall pick in a draft that is viewed as having at least four top-tier prospects, but that doesn’t mean they’re content with simply staying put and taking whichever player drops to them, writes Josh Lewenberg of TSN.ca. General manager Bobby Webster suggested the club will be open to a variety of scenarios with that selection. “All of our options are open,” Webster said. “As much as we would love the pick, we’re going to see what it yields outside of the draft.”
  • Veteran guard Nando De Colo, who technically remains a Raptors restricted free agent despite not having played in the NBA since 2014, will return to Fenerbahce in Turkey for at least one more season, as Emiliano Carchia of Sportando relays. Toronto has issued De Colo a qualifying offer for seven straight years to retain his RFA rights and will likely do so again this summer.
  • While there’s no guarantee that the Ben Simmons era in Philadelphia will come to an end this offseason, Chris Mannix of SI.com believes that it should, arguing that Simmons and the Sixers would both benefit from a fresh start.

Nets Notes: Udoka, Coaching Staff, Claxton, Durant

The Nets will have to find a new assistant coach to coordinate their defense now that Ime Udoka is finalizing a deal to become head coach of the Celtics, writes Brian Lewis of The New York Post. Udoka only spent one season with Brooklyn, coming to the team from Philadelphia after the Sixers’ coaching shake-up last offseason, but he quickly earned respect throughout the organization.

Lewis describes Udoka, who spent 10 years as an NBA assistant, mostly in San Antonio, as a “no-nonsense, tough-love” coach who demands the best from his players.

“Ime focuses a lot about defense, because obviously when he played that’s basically what he was, a defender, and he liked to be physical,” Nets guard Mike James said. “Just for me personally, he’s always reminded me to do the little things: sprint back, load up, box out, be physical.

“He’s not like a coach that’ll hold back how he feels. He’s going to tell you how he feels, how you’re playing, what you should be doing better. For somebody like me, obviously that might not be the same what everybody else is doing. But I like coaches to be honest and tell me what they want me to do and it works out.”

There’s more from Brooklyn:

  • The Nets may have to replace two more members of Steve Nashs staff this summer, Lewis adds. Mike D’Antoni is a candidate for the Trail Blazers’ vacancy, while Jacque Vaughn has been given permission to interview with the Pelicans. “We have incredible coaches, and they all are really worthy of being head coaches, or already have been. … I’m assuming we will have turnover,” Nash said. “I’m assuming some of these guys will get jobs, because they’re that good and would really add a lot to an organization.”
  • Brooklyn views Nicolas Claxton as its future starting center, according to Michael Scotto and Yossi Gozlan of Hoops Hype. Scotto states that the Nets weren’t willing to move Claxton at the trade deadline unless they got a star in return. He will be eligible for a veteran extension this summer worth up to a projected $55MM+.
  • Kevin Durant‘s trip to the Olympics will reunite him with Warriors coach Steve Kerr, who will be an assistant on Gregg Popovich’s staff. Kerr raved about Durant during a radio interview this week, relays Dalton Johnson of NBC Sports Bay Area, calling him more talented than Michael Jordan and saying his former team was supporting him during the Nets’ playoff run. “You think about what he did for this organization,” Kerr said, “not only helping us win titles but to come back and try to play through injuries and then suffer the devastating Achilles injury, we all just wanted to see Kevin healthy and to see him in the playoffs playing at the level he reached, it was really, really gratifying for all of us.”

Atlantic Notes: Simmons, Nets Free Agents, Nets Assistants, Stevens

After the Sixers suffered through a seven-game second-round playoff exit as the top seed, head coach Doc Rivers has stated that the club will address the shooting struggles of All-Star Ben Simmons during the offseason, per Tim Bontemps of ESPN.

“I believe, without going into detail with what we’re doing, I believe we know what the right work is, and the right type of work, and the right way to do it,” Rivers said of the Sixers’ plan for Simmons. “We’re not hiding that Ben has to become a better free throw shooter and a more confident free throw shooter.”

During the playoffs this season, Simmons connected on just 34.2% of his 6.1 free throw attempts per game, and attempted one total three-pointer. The Sixers guard was timid in looking to score late in games. He had just three fourth-quarter field goal attempts in the entire series, fewer than role players Dwight Howard, Matisse Thybulle, George Hill, Tyrese Maxey, and Furkan Korkmaz.

There’s more out of the Atlantic Division:

  • Several key Nets players will be free agents during the 2021 offseason, prompting Michael Scotto of HoopsHype to project the market value for the likes of Spencer Dinwiddie, Blake Griffin, Bruce Brown and Jeff Green. The league executives Scotto spoke with speculated that Dinwiddie is looking to leave Brooklyn and will hope to command an annual salary in the “high teens.” Rival NBA executives peg the value of both Griffin and Green as ranging anywhere from the bi-annual exception to the taxpayer mid-level exception. Because Brown is a restricted free agent, the Nets will be able to match any offer sent his way. Executives project Brown to net a yearly salary between $4-7MM.
  • The Nets might not just be undergoing some changes on the hardwood. Their sideline may look a bit different for the 2021/22 season too, as many assistants are in the running for the seven currently available NBA head coaching jobs, writes Marc Berman of the New York Post. Berman writes that assistant coach Mike D’Antoni appears to be a finalist for the Trail Blazers head coaching gig, while fellow assistant coach Ime Udoka is in the running for the Celtics’ vacancy.
  • For the first time, Celtics team president Brad Stevens has discussed his decision to trade point guard Kemba Walker and two picks to the Thunder in exchange for Moses Brown, old friend Al Horford, and a 2023 second-round draft pick, per Tim Bontemps of ESPN“The ability to make our wings (All-Stars Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown) better is going to be a huge part of the people that will be around them,” Stevens said Monday in explaining the thinking behind the deal. Stevens, of course, coached Walker for two injury-plagued seasons before moving into the front office earlier this month. Stevens also cited future finances as a consideration in his decision.

Celtics Notes: Udoka, Ham, Billups, Walker, Fournier, Williams, Smart

Assistant coaches Ime Udoka (Nets), Darvin Ham (Bucks) and Chauncey Billups (Clippers) are expected to get interviewed a second time by the Celtics’ brass for the head coaching job vacated by new president of basketball operations Brad Stevens, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reports. While that trio is viewed as serious candidates for the job, others are still under consideration.

Udoka has received endorsements from Celtics players who were members of the U.S. national team in the 2019 World Cup tournament, according to Wojnarowski. Ham has interviewed for several head-coaching jobs in the past two years, while Billups has drawn interest from the Trail Blazers, Wizards, Magic and Pelicans for their current openings.

We have more Celtics news:

  • By shedding Kemba Walker‘s salary in a trade with the Thunder on Friday, the Celtics believe they’ll have a better chance of re-signing free agent Evan Fournier, Mark Murphy of the Boston Herald tweets. The trade also increases the possibility of signing another free agent to the full mid-level exception, Murphy adds.
  • Walker’s 15% trade kicker was nullified due to his large salary, Bleacher Report’s Eric Pincus tweets. Walker’s $34,379,100 salary this season, coupled with him being a nine-year veteran until August 2, exceeded the $32,742,000 maximum. He couldn’t earn anything above that, so the trade bonus was voided. If Walker had been traded once the new league year began in August, he could’ve received a portion of that bonus.
  • Robert Williams and Marcus Smart are two other prominent players who could be on the move, according to John Hollinger of The Athletic. Boston’s roster is overloaded with centers and Williams could be used to bring in a backcourt piece. Smart has an expiring $14.4MM contract next season and is eligible for an extension that could go as high as $17.MM in the first year. If Smart believes he could get more on the free agent market next year, the team may consider moving him now and getting assets in return.

Coaching Rumors: Magic, Carlisle, Mavericks, Celtics

The Magic have requested permission to interview three assistants with no previous NBA head coaching experience, sources tell Josh Robbins of The Athletic. The requests involve Suns assistant Willie Green, Bucks assistant Charles Lee and Nets assistant Ime Udoka.

Orlando may be seeking a younger coach to oversee its rebuilding process after moving many of its veteran players at this year’s trade deadline. Former head coach Steve Clifford reportedly decided to part ways with the team because he didn’t want to commit to a rebuilding situation.

Green, 39, came to Phoenix in 2019 when Monty Williams was hired as head coach. He also served as an assistant coach with the Warriors and finished out his 12-year NBA career with the Magic in 2014/15.

Lee, 36, has been an assistant for seven seasons, working under Mike Budenholzer with the Hawks and Bucks. He has also been mentioned as a candidate for head coaching vacancies in New Orleans, Boston and possibly Milwaukee if the organization decides not to bring back Budenholzer.

Udoka, 43, has been a candidate for several openings in recent years. He is in his first season with Brooklyn after previously serving as an assistant with the Sixers and Spurs. Robbins notes that the Magic interviewed Udoka after Frank Vogel was fired in 2018, but Clifford was chosen for the job.

Orlando has already sought permission to interview Spurs assistant Becky Hammon, Lakers assistant Jason Kidd and Nuggets associate head coach Wes Unseld Jr.

Robbins speculates that Rick Carlisle, who resigned as Mavericks coach on Thursday, could be another name to watch because he and general manager John Hammond spent two years together in Detroit. However, Carlisle is expected to receive offers from teams that are ready to be competitive right away.

There’s more on the NBA’s coaching search:

  • Carlisle could be the Bucks‘ top candidate if they fall short in the playoffs and decide to replace Budenholzer, ESPN’s Tim MacMahon said on Brian Windhorst’s Hoop Collective podcast (hat tip to Real GM). MacMahon also cites rumors about Carlisle returning to the Pacers, where he coached from 2003-07, and speculates that he never would have left Dallas unless he was sure that another opportunity was awaiting.
  • On the same podcast, MacMahon named Jamahl MosleyTerry Stotts and Kidd as three likely candidates to replace Carlisle with the Mavericks. Mosley, who is also a candidate for other openings, has been an assistant in Dallas since 2014. Stotts served as an assistant to Carlisle with the Mavs before the Trail Blazers hired him as head coach.
  • Zach Harper of The Athletic considers the Celtics‘ job the best one available in his coaching vacancy power rankings. He names Carlisle as the best choice for Boston.