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.”