Ime Udoka

Celtics Notes: Udoka, Stoudamire, All-Star Game, Smart

Celtics assistant coach Damon Stoudamire said he frequently checks in with suspended coach Ime Udoka, whom he’s known for 30 years. Stoudamire has tried to give him advice and keep his spirits high, Adam Himmelsbach of the Boston Globe reports.

“I think that everything that happens to you, when it hits you like this it can really get overwhelming,” Stoudamire said. “So that’s what I check on him about. I check on him to make sure he’s doing all right, and make sure his son is good, and that he’s able to find some type of peace within what he has going on. As a human being when you do something, you beat yourself down. And with the success that we’re having now, it’s human nature, man. You’re sitting there; you’re watching [the team]. I just think the biggest thing is that he’s able to, in his own way, come to some kind of resolution and peace in his mind so he can move forward.”

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  • In the same story, Stoudamire expressed a desire to be an NBA head coach. He was a head coach at Pacific prior to joining the Celtics staff. He filled in for interim coach Joe Mazzulla when Mazzulla missed a couple of games due to eye irritation. “Of course I want to be a head coach again, but more importantly I want to be prepared when the opportunity presents itself,” Stoudamire said.
  • The Celtics will file an application to host the 2026 All-Star Game, according to Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe. Boston has gone nearly 60 years without hosting it, mainly due to modest interest within the city and among the team’s ownership groups. That thinking has changed because the Celtics expect to remain in championship contention behind All-Star talents Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. Having an upgraded facility, plus plenty of hotel space near the arena, has also encouraged the current owners to bid for the game.
  • Marcus Smart has been ruled out for Monday’s game in Orlando due to a sprained ankle suffered Saturday night in Toronto, Tim Bontemps of ESPN tweets. Malcolm Brogdon will also miss the game due to personal reasons, while Robert Williams (knee) is questionable.

Celtics Notes: Udoka, Mazzulla, Pritchard, Jackson, White

The Celtics continue to hope their coaching situation resolves itself with Ime Udoka landing another job, but a rival general manager tells Steve Bullpett of Heavy that may not be likely. Although Boston is expected to keep Joe Mazzulla in place beyond this season, he’s still technically the interim coach. Udoka’s suspension for an inappropriate relationship with a subordinate will expire June 30, and the team may have to negotiate a settlement to keep both Udoka and Mazzulla happy.

The problem appeared to be solved when Udoka emerged as the frontrunner for the Nets’ job after they parted ways with Steve Nash in November. But Brooklyn officials changed their minds about hiring Udoka, which the GM believes may reflect the opinion around the league.

“There’s still a lot of question about all that went on with him, but even just the fact that he didn’t fight the suspension says something,” the GM said. “From a team standpoint, it’s hard to bring him in right now. You’ve got women on your staff that could have a problem with it, and there’s the public. … Just the social media climate would bring a lot of criticism.”

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  • Payton Pritchard has sat out 14 games this season due to coach’s decision, but he has been delivering when called on, observes Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe. Pritchard turned in solid performances this week while replacing Marcus Smart and Jaylen Brown, and he might see regular minutes during Brown’s expected absence. There have been trade rumors regarding Pritchard, who will be eligible for a rookie scale extension during the offseason, but he’s been trying to ignore them and focus on playing. “Obviously I hear it, I see it,” he said. “I know what it is. But that’s not something I can focus on. I’ll let my agent handle that and (team president) Brad (Stevens). I’ll focus on basketball.”
  • The decision to keep Justin Jackson on the roster past last weekend’s salary guarantee date was made to provide insurance in case of a long-term injury to Brown or Jayson Tatum, Brian Robb of MassLive states in a mailbag column. The Celtics don’t have many other options at the wing, Robb adds, so it was safer to guarantee Jackson’s contract than to fill the opening through 10-day deals.
  • Derrick White was forced to leave Saturday’s game at Charlotte after spraining his neck midway through the first quarter, per Souichi Terada of MassLive.

Atlantic Notes: Toppin, Randle, Powell, Mazzulla

Knicks forward Obi Toppin is still in the early stages of rehab from his right leg injury, according to Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News.

Toppin, who has not played since Dec. 7, said his workouts are limited to spot-up shooting, pool work and upper-body weightlifting. The Knicks’ primary backup to Julius Randle will need “couple more reevaluations” before returning from the fractured bone in his leg.

“Not really any pain, but I could not feel pain and it could still be messed up,” Toppin said. “So it’s all up to [the Knicks’ medical staff]. Whenever they feel I should be back, that’s when I’ll come back.”

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  • Randle caused a stir, particularly among Knicks fans, when he sat in the front row of Mavericks-Jazz playoff game last spring. Randle was accompanied by Knicks executives William Wesley and Alan Houston, but Randle insists they weren’t there to be seen by potential acquisitions Jalen Brunson and Donovan Mitchell. Randle, who lives in the Dallas area, claimed Tuesday it was just a coincidence, Bondy writes. “I didn’t even know [Wesley and Houston] were in town,” he said. “Just so happened to happen like that.”
  • Former Raptors champion and current Clippers forward Norman Powell returned to Toronto on Tuesday for the first time since Feb. 28, 2020, Law Murray of The Athletic tweets. The Raptors were on a road trip when the pandemic hit and then played in the Orlando bubble before spending the next season in Tampa, with Powell traded to Portland midway through that year. He was inactive for the Trail Blazers’ game in Toronto last season and was dealt to the Clippers after Los Angeles had already played there.
  • The Celtics still don’t plan to remove the interim tag from Joe Mazzulla before the end of the season, according to Adam Himmelbach of the Boston Globe. Ime Udoka‘s suspension is due to end in June. Mazzulla, who missed Tuesday’s game due to eye irritation, according to Jared Weiss (Twitter link), may have been given some assurances about his future privately by the front office. It’s expected that Mazzulla will be retained as the head coach after the season.

Atlantic Notes: Randle, Tatum, Brown, O’Neale, Maxey

After being hit with 12 technical fouls and $130K in fines last season, Knicks forward Julius Randle came into 2022/23 hoping to keep his temper in check and to not be at odds with the referees nearly as often, writes Stefan Bondy of The New York Daily News.

Randle, who made a bet with a member of the Knicks organization that he wouldn’t get more than three technical fouls this season, received a pair on Sunday to push his season total to four. He referred to Sunday’s game as a “relapse” and said it was “selfish” of him to get those two techs that resulted in his ejection.

“Hopefully, that last one gets rescinded,” Randle said, per Bondy. “… I’m really trying my best. Sometimes my emotions get the best of me. But that’s just kind of what comes with it.”

Here’s more from around the Atlantic:

  • Celtics stars Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown spoke to Sam Amick and Jared Weiss of The Athletic about the heartbreak of losing the NBA Finals, the Ime Udoka controversy, and a handful of other topics. Tatum described the Udoka situation as “extremely frustrating,” noting that there’s still a lot that the team hasn’t explained, presumably for legal reasons.
  • After missing Brooklyn’s last two games for personal reasons, forward Royce O’Neale is expected to return for Friday’s game in Toronto, a source tells Brian Lewis of The New York Post. As Lewis observes, with O’Neale back, the Nets will be as healthy as they’ve been all season, putting them in position to build some chemistry and perhaps extend their four-game winning streak.
  • Sixers head coach Doc Rivers said on Tuesday that he hopes Tyrese Maxey is able to practice with the club later this week, though it’s not trending that way for now, tweets Kyle Neubeck of Maxey, recovering from a left foot fracture, has been doing some running and shooting, but hasn’t yet been able to fully practice.

Celtics Notes: Horford, G. Williams, Smart, Udoka

Al Horford gave the Celtics a “hometown discount” by signing a two-year extension this week valued at $20MM, an Eastern Conference executive tells Sean Deveney of Heavy. The executive believes Horford could have received more money if he had waited for free agency, but at age 36 he wasn’t interested in leaving Boston for a rebuilding team.

“The teams with money next year are mostly young teams,” the executive said. “So maybe Horford was looking at the landscape and saw who had cap space and wound up saying, ‘I do not want to go to Houston, man.’ It is a win for both sides, really, but if he wanted to chase money, he could have gotten more.”

Horford’s team-friendly deal puts the Celtics in a better position to re-sign Grant Williams, Deveney adds. Horford is making $26.5MM this season and Williams is at $4.3MM in the final year of his rookie contract. Boston wants to keep their combined salaries in the same range, so the team could theoretically offer Williams a new deal starting at about $20MM per season. However, sources have told Deveney that the Celtics might be reluctant to match an offer for the restricted free agent that’s in the $18-20MM range.

“I don’t know that they would go into $20MM a year for Grant Williams,” the executive added. “I don’t know that anyone else would, either. But they have some cushion. If it winds up being $15MM a year for Grant, they can match that and still be in a position where they’re not adding to that (tax) burden.”

There’s more from Boston:

  • Horford is the latest in a series of players that president of basketball operations Brad Stevens has signed to extensions before their contracts expired, notes Souichi Terada of MassLive. Stevens said Horford’s versatility and leadership have been instrumental as the Celtics have compiled the league’s best record. “Al is such an important part of our team,” Stevens said. “He’s a high-level player who enhances everyone around him on both ends of the court. His work ethic, commitment to his body and craft, and his unselfishness set a daily example on how to win big in the NBA.”
  • Marcus Smart is listed as questionable for Sunday with a left hip contusion, Terada adds in a separate story. Derrick White will likely replace Smart in the starting lineup if he has to miss the game, according to Terada, while Malcolm Brogdon and Payton Pritchard would see increased minutes.
  • Actress Nia Long has criticized the Celtics for the way they handled the suspension of coach Ime Udoka, her longtime partner, per Kevin Slane of The Boston Globe. In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Long said the team made details of the incident more public than they needed to be, which caused embarrassment for their 11-year-old son.

Eastern Notes: VanVleet, Barnes, Allen, Irving, Udoka

Raptors guard Fred VanVleet will miss his second straight game on Monday due to a non-COVID illness, Josh Lewenberg of TSN Sports tweets. The Raptors are facing the struggling Pistons in Detroit. Forwards Pascal Siakam and Precious Achiuwa are also out of action, while big man Khem Birch is listed as questionable.

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  • Scottie Barnes had a rough shooting night in Indiana on Saturday and the Raptors need more from their dynamic second-year forward, Doug Smith of the Toronto Star writes. Barnes is averaging 13.8 points, 6.6 rebounds and 4.9 assists per game but he has only reached the 20-point mark once despite the team’s injuries. Teammate Thaddeus Young says Barnes will break out soon. “Sometimes guys have a bad streak of games, or sometimes they have a bad start to the season then they take off at some point,” he said. “Things will change; they always do.”
  • Jarrett Allen missed Sunday’s game due to ankle soreness but coach J.B. Bickerstaff indicated prior to the game the Cavaliers center will likely return this week, Kelsey Russo of The Athletic tweets. “The thinking behind it is having today will give him like four days of rest before Milwaukee (on Wednesday),” Bickerstaff said. “It’s just been sore and he’s been powering through it.”
  • Nets guard Kyrie Irving sent out a tweet on Sunday related to his suspension, Brian Lewis of the New York Post relays. Irving stated that he was not trying to incite racial disharmony or prejudice. “I was not put here on earth to participate in any religious/political wars or incite racial disharmony/prejudice within communities,” he wrote. “We are all equal under the sun and I am here to participate in the building of an Equal world and follow the Word from the Most High/GOD/YAH.”
  • The Celtics were willing to let Ime Udoka take the Nets job without demanding any compensation in return, according to Jay King of The Athletic. Now, the organization still has to decide what to do with Udoka after the season unless another suitor comes along. It seems likely Udoka will never coach the team again, King adds.

Atlantic Notes: Harris, Udoka, Irving, Vaughn, Achiuwa

Sixers forward Tobias Harris is seeing his role change again after a recent injury to James Harden, writes Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer. With Harden sidelined for about a month, Harris is being asked to carry more of the scoring load.

“Evolving into what the situation is when presented,” Harris said. “Sometimes that is going to be a space on the floor. And obviously at times, it’s limited play calls. But you just find other ways to adapt.”

Harris is averaging 15.0 PPG through 11 games this season, but that number has risen to 22.0 in the two games without Harden. He’s also taking on more play-making duties, setting up teammates for open three-point shots with drives to the basket.

“I’ve always prided myself on being a very good team basketball player in the half-court offense,” Harris said. “That’s something I was always able to do and be a part of.”

There’s more from the Atlantic Division:

  • Nets general manager Sean Marks refused to provide details when asked before tonight’s game why the team didn’t hire Ime Udoka, tweets Alex Schiffer of The Athletic. Marks also said there’s no update on Kyrie Irving‘s suspension, adding that he hasn’t talked directly with Irving, only to his representatives. Jacque Vaughn also said he hasn’t spoken to Irving (Twitter link). Vaughn explained that he wasn’t sure about his role in the Irving scenario while he was an interim coach, but that could change now that he’s been officially hired.
  • Because he’s only signed through the 2023/24 season, Vaughn is effectively undergoing an “audition” for a longer-term role with the Nets, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (video link). Wojnarowski adds that if management is happy with the job Vaughn does, he could get an extension at the end of the season. Woj also addresses Irving’s suspension, saying “there’s still a lot in play” regarding when he might return.
  • Raptors coach Nick Nurse is emphasizing defense to Precious Achiuwa, tweets Michael Grange of Sportsnet. Nurse had a one-on-one film session with Achiuwa today, showing him defensive mistakes that he made. Nurse projected Achiuwa to play 25 to 30 minutes per night before the season began, but said he has to become more reliable defensively for that to happen.

Celtics Notes: Udoka, Tatum, R. Williams, Brogdon

The Nets decided not to hire Ime Udoka, but he’s expected to eventually land another head coaching job, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (video link). Wojnarowski said Brooklyn conducted a thorough investigation of the suspended Celtics coach, but determined it was “too difficult” to bring him on board because of the turmoil surrounding the team.

Nets officials view Jacque Vaughn as better able to stabilize the organization, but Woj believes Udoka could have been the choice under different circumstances. He adds that plenty of other teams have also done their due diligence on Udoka’s situation and it wouldn’t be surprising to see him back in the league by next season.

The Celtics might have preferred to see Udoka go to Brooklyn, writes Brian Robb of MassLive, adding that it’s telling that they weren’t seeking any compensation from the Nets. Udoka’s departure would have prevented a potential legal battle regarding the years he has left on his contract. It may have also eased the pressure on interim coach Joe Mazzulla, who continues to operate in Udoka’s shadow.

There’s more from Boston:

  • Jayson Tatum appears to be OK following an injury scare in Monday’s win over the Grizzlies, according to Souichi Terada of MassLive. After colliding with Ja Morant while chasing a loose ball, Tatum was down on the court grabbing his left knee, but he was able to walk off the pain and finish the game. “It was kind of like a weird fall,” Tatum said. “He dove for it, I tried to pick it up, get out the way. Nothing intentional. It was kind of like, I guess his knee collided with mine. Felt a little discomfort there. Obviously kept playing, got it looked at. So I’m fine.”
  • Robert Williams is making progress in his recovery from knee surgery, but the team has avoided setting a definite timetable for him to return, per Steve Bulpett of Heavy. The Celtics are willing to give Williams as much time as he needs in order to ensure that he’s healthy for the playoffs. Bulpett adds that Williams is steadily increasing his workload and it’s an encouraging sign that he joined the team for its most recent road trip.
  • Malcolm Brogdon has been a welcome addition to the second unit, notes Matt John of Brogdon is averaging 14.2 points, 4.0 rebounds and 3.8 assists through 10 games, and Boston is plus-6.7 with him on the court. “He does a good job of penetrating into the paint and spreading out the shooters around him and creating shots for himself,” Grant Williams said. “He provides different values and opportunities to a team that needed it.”

Nets Notes: Udoka, Vaughn, Irving, Future

After the Nets parted ways with Steve Nash last week, top team officials spoke to Ime Udoka within the next 24-to-48 hours and he begin preparing to potentially take over the team’s head coaching job, multiple sources tell Shams Charania of The Athletic. However, according to Charania, Brooklyn ultimately deviated from its plan to hire Udoka due to a handful of factors.

The Nets’ due diligence into Udoka and his suspension in Boston took longer than initially expected, and there was push-back from people inside and outside of the organization about the possible hiring, sources tell The Athletic. Charania also cites “short- and long-term question marks around the team’s ability to contend” due to Kyrie Irving‘s uncertain future as another factor.

According to Charania, the Nets have seen buy-in from the players under Jacque Vaughn, who has created “positive energy” inside a locker room that has already dealt with its share of drama this season. Additionally, while the sample size is small, Brooklyn’s defense seems to be improving under Vaughn, which is another reason why the team was comfortable removing his interim title and making him the permanent head coach, Charania adds.

Here’s more on the Nets:

  • A veteran scout tells Brian Lewis of The New York Post that in the Nets’ October 29 game vs. Indiana, he counted 10 separate instances where Nash called a specific play and Irving ran something entirely different. “I couldn’t believe what I was seeing,” the scout said. “Nash would call something, and he’d run the opposite. I’ve never seen anything like that.” A source close to the situation tells Lewis that the Nets “did whatever they wanted” under Nash, no matter what game plan he gave the team. “They were the most dysfunctional team I’ve seen (in years),” another scout said to Lewis.
  • Although Irving’s Tuesday meeting with NBA commissioner Adam Silver went well and could create a path to him rejoining the Nets, there are still some fences to mend, Shams Charania of The Athletic said during an appearance on The Rally (video link). “There is a bunch to sort through between Kyrie Irving and the Nets. There are relationships that need to be sorted out,” Charania said. “Not only between Kyrie Irving and management (and ownership), but also the locker room — he’s been away from the team for about a week now.”
  • Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report considers whether the Nets should blow up their roster, noting that the upside to doing so is limited because they’ve already traded away several future draft picks and Irving and Ben Simmons don’t currently have any trade value.

Nets Will Retain Jacque Vaughn As Head Coach

11:53am: Vaughn’s promotion to permanent head coach comes with a deal through the 2023/24 season, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN (Twitter link).

11:15am: The Nets have named Jacque Vaughn as their head coach, the team announced today in an official press release. Vaughn had been the team’s acting head coach since Steve Nash‘s exit from the franchise, so today’s announcement essentially removes the interim tag from his title.

“Jacque’s basketball acumen, competitiveness and intimate knowledge of our team and organization make him the clear-cut best person to lead our group moving forward,” general manager Sean Marks said in a statement. “He has a proven ability to get the best out of our players, hold them accountable and play a cohesive, team-first style of basketball.”

The news is particularly notable because it signals that Brooklyn isn’t moving forward with its rumored plan to hire Ime Udoka away from the Celtics. Udoka, who is serving a one-year suspension in Boston for sending crude messages and engaging in a relationship with a female subordinate, emerged as the frontrunner to replace Nash last week.

However, the Nets were said to still be going through the vetting process on Udoka and reportedly received push-back from some “strong voices,” including from some of the female staffers within the organization.

It’s unclear if Udoka could still reemerge a candidate for Brooklyn at some point down the road or if the vetting process removed him from the team’s radar entirely — either way, it sounds as if Vaughn will coach the Nets for at least the rest of the 2022/23 season, and potentially beyond that.

A former NBA guard, Vaughn transitioned into coaching following his retirement as a player, initially serving as an assistant on Gregg Popovich‘s staff in San Antonio. He was hired as the Magic’s head coach in 2012, but posted a dismal 58-158 (.269) record during two-and-a-half seasons in that role.

Vaughn was an assistant for the Nets from 2016-22, briefly serving as the team’s interim coach after Kenny Atkinson was let go in 2020. He guided the Nets to a 7-3 record at that time and has led the club to a 2-2 mark since replacing Nash last week.

Naming Vaughn the full-time head coach should smooth out one area of instability in Brooklyn, but there are other issues to resolve. Vaughn will be tasked with trying to help turn things around for Ben Simmons, who has looked like a shadow of his former self since returning from a season-long absence, and the Nets will still have to determine whether to reinstate Kyrie Irving following his suspension.