Celtics coach Ime Udoka started a bit of a reunion tour on Wednesday, when the Celtics faced the Nets. Udoka was an assistant with Brooklyn last year. Prior to that he was an assistant with the 76ers and Spurs, two teams Boston will face over the next week.
Brooklyn coach Steve Nash said it was an easy decision to hire Udoka last year, Nash’s first as a head coach.
“Just the opportunity to bring in a really veteran, experienced former player who’s got a great resume as a coach was exciting for me,” Nash said. “I thought his personality too was great for our group. Was a great addition to our group. He’s a competitive guy with a great resume and it was exciting to be able to add him to our group last year.”
The Nets advanced to the Eastern Conference semifinals last season, where they lost to the Bucks in seven games. Nash said it was clear afterward that Udoka was ready to take the next step in his career. “I just think he’s put the time in,” Nash said. “He’s done it and seen it for a long time at a high level. He’s been able to work for Pop and the Spurs, and also have that experience of going against different teams throughout the league year after year after year you start to pick up and understand the language of the league, the styles, the difference between teams and clubs and that experience coupled with his playing background and his personality, great characteristics for a future head coach for success. I thought it was a no-brainer to hire him.”
Udoka was an assistant with San Antonio for seven seasons, and he said it was invaluable to spread his wings a bit during stops with the 76ers and Nets.
“Loved the time [in Brooklyn], loved getting to know the players better and getting back to ‘the real NBA’ outside of the Boy Scouts in San Antonio,” Udoka said. “So dealing with that prepares you for these situations and that’s why I think it was good to go to Philly and Brooklyn and loved it.”
Williams, Richardson out, Brown in
Celtics center Robert Williams and guard Josh Richardson missed Wednesday’s game against the Nets because of non-COVID illnesses.
Jaylen Brown was listed as questionable because of some lingering soreness from the strained hamstring that forced him to miss eight games, but he was cleared to play about an hour before tipoff.
“Status is pretty much day-to-day going forward,” Udoka said. “Questionable for the next week or so. Just see how his body reacts to the minutes he’s playing. So we have to hope that he plays well. He felt decent yesterday, but there’s going to be some natural soreness and stiffness coming back and jumping into those minutes in real game action.”
Tough road ahead
Wednesday’s game marked the start of one of Boston’s most grueling stretches of the season. Seven of the next eight games will be played on the road, including matchups against the Clippers, Suns, Jazz and Lakers. The lone home game in this segment is against the 76ers.
“We’re just going to use this opportunity to know who we are.” Celtics forward Grant Williams said. “That’s the biggest thing. We’re a team that’s going to compete with everyone, no matter who is coming onto the floor that night, whether it’s home or away, and that’s kind of how we have to approach each game.”