Sports

Ime Udoka announces his presence with authority


Ime Udoka

Ime Udoka
Photo: Getty Images

Boston Celtics first-year head coach Ime Udoka isn’t wasting any time making his mark on this team. During Boston’s preseason finale against the Miami Heat, forward Grant Williams decided to argue a foul call with an official, allowing the Heat’s Bam Adebayo to beat him back down the court for an easy two points. Udoka then benched Williams for committing his fourth foul and arguing the call with a referee.

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That’s a fine coaching line Udoka is walking in Boston already. The type of start the Celtics have this season will make a big difference in whether these young players buy into their new coach’s old-school style. This new generation of players isn’t always as accepting of this vintage coaching style. “Come sit next to me” doesn’t always fly these days, and some players will reject this. I’m not saying Udoka was wrong for benching Williams. I’m only saying he’s got to be careful and realize that approach won’t work with every player on his roster.

Since Williams is a role player and not a star, it is less worrying than it might otherwise be. One thing we know about NBA players is that no one has ever truly committed a foul. Whenever a foul is called, the penalized player usually pops up looking shocked that they got called for the foul. You’d think every foul was a player’s first one, which is just comical at this point.

I’d love to see how Udoka takes care of the situation when it’s Jayson Tatum or Jaylen Brown. Will Udoka treat every player exactly the same, no matter their position in the hierarchy on the roster? Having played in the NBA, then as an assistant coach for many years with the San Antonio Spurs, I think Udoka is smart enough to realize he can’t do that. The approach needs to be much different with today’s athletes, especially in the NBA. The days of coaches making examples of any player on the team are over. Unless you know for sure a player can take it and not shut down, you’ve got to handle the situation with care.

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The Celtics will be looking to rebound from a disappointing 2020-21 season. Once they get Brown and Al Horford back on the floor, Boston could make some noise in the eastern conference. With a fully healthy team, I can see Boston battling with Miami and Philly for the third and fourth seeds in the east. But all that will depend on how coach Udoka lays the foundation for what he wants to build in Beantown.

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