NEW YORK — Celtics coach Ime Udoka said Tuesday that he and president of basketball operations Brad Stevens have talked about several potential deals in advance of Thursday’s trade deadline, but Udoka remains focused on the current roster.
“People are obviously inquiring and we discussed what we like, what’s going on,” Udoka said. “Obviously, there’s tons of options and people are calling, but until something happens we’ll focus on what we have in-house and how we’re playing, which is obviously pretty high level right now.”
Udoka said at the start of this season he was mostly concerned with getting a look at his team when healthy. Finally back to full strength, the Celtics are in the midst of a promising stretch that may have reset what could be possible this season. With Tuesday night’s 126-91 victory against the undermanned Nets, the Celtics have won eight of their last nine games.
Still, Udoka acknowledged that the Celtics will continue to look for ways to upgrade the roster from the outside, with an emphasis on adding perimeter shooting.
“We can do a lot within ourselves, what we have,” he said. “Obviously, shooting is a big piece of it, and a big part was health initially. Once we touched on those things, being whole for this extended amount of time now and improving our shooting, trying to get back to where we were, that’s something we can do in-house. But you’re always looking for shooting, and we have a lot of room to improve within what we already have here.”
Moves already have begun to trickle out, with the Pacers and Kings agreeing on a deal centered on Indiana star Domantas Sabonis and Sacramento’s rising star, Tyrese Haliburton, and the Cavaliers acquiring Caris LeVert from Indiana. Udoka said he has been keeping tabs on the conference landscape, too.
“You look at how it could impact your conference or whatever the case may be with guys coming and going,” he said. “But for the most part we’re focused on what we’re doing and that’s an every game-to-game thing, let alone trades happening. And so me, being in the league this long as a player and a coach, you’re used to it and I don’t think guys bat much of an eye at it at all.”
Nash not surprised
Udoka was an assistant coach under Steve Nash with the Nets last season, and Nash said he was not surprised to see Udoka finding his rhythm during his first year as a head coach.
“I think when you take over a program like he has, especially with some injuries and the COVID interruptions everyone’s dealt with, you have to have time to analyze and see what you have,” Nash said. “He’s shortened his rotation. He’s got everyone healthy, which largely puts out there good to really good defenders, so defensively they’ve taken it to another level. I think they’re forming a real understanding and cohesion for not only what he wants, but each other in that system. So he’s doing a terrific job. We expected him to do great, and it’s exciting to see him work.”
The Nets were without Kevin Durant (knee), James Harden (hamstring), Kyrie Irving (COVID vaccine regulations), Joe Harris (ankle), Nic Claxton (hamstring), and LaMarcus Aldridge (ankle).