The Sun (Lowell)
Smart denies report about Ime Udoka
Veteran guard says team has moved on
MIAMI >> The cloud of Ime Udoka’s dismissal has hovered over the Celtics all season. For most of the year, they seemed to handle the challenging circumstances well. But as they hit adversity in the Eastern Conference Finals, the topic resurfaced.
With the Celtics on the brink of elimination, ESPN’S Adrian Wojnarowski reported that the players never came to grips with the departure of Udoka, who was issued a season-long suspension on the eve of training camp in September and ultimately let go in February after he committed violations of team policies.
“This team, this locker room, they never got over Ime Udoka’s dismissal as head coach,” Wojnarowski reported. “These players did not accept the organization’s reasoning for doing it. They thought it was a wild overreaction.”
At Tuesday morning’s shootaround prior to Game 4, Celtics guard Marcus Smart denied that Udoka’s dismissal was still affecting them.
“No. No. Regardless of if Ime was here or not, we’re the ones out there playing,” Smart said. “We gotta go out there and play. Joe (Mazzulla) does a great job of putting us in the right positions. They come up with a game plan. It’s on us. There’s only so much any coach can do for you out there as a player. At some point you gotta look at yourself and figure it out.”
The Celtics were clearly shaken in September after Udoka’s sudden departure, as they publicly questioned the decision, and it seems they never got the answers they wanted to hear about it. Some players continued to publicly defend and support Udoka throughout the season, especially after he landed on his feet and was named the new head coach of the Rockets in April.
Meanwhile, the Celtics have supported Mazzulla, who took the job under difficult circumstances. There have been obvious challenges with the first-year
head coach, and his inexperience has been exposed throughout the playoffs and especially in this series against the Heat and veteran coach Erik Spoelstra. Mazzulla took the blame for their horrific Game 3 loss — repeating several times that he didn’t get the Celtics ready for a must-win game — and admitted that the C’s have lost some of their defensive identity that was so prevalent last season under Udoka.
“That’s Joe. That’s who Joe is,” Smart said. “He’s a competitor. He wants to be perfect, he wants to do everything right. But it’s not on Joe. Joe can’t go out there and check himself
into the game. It’s on us. We appreciate Joe taking it, but everything isn’t on Joe.”
Entering Game 4, Jaylen Brown’s shooting in this series had been woeful. He shot 37.7 percent in the first three games, including 2-for-20 from 3-point range. Several of them have been good looks, which included an alarming air-ball at the end of the first half of Game 3 on a wide-open 3-pointer.
During a timeout in Game 1, Brown’s right hand cut open. It’s the same hand that needed five stitches in early April after he suffered an injury at home. But he said Tuesday that it’s not bothering him.
“No, I thought I had some good looks,” Brown said. “Miami does a good job switching back and forth
between zone and man and not trying to let me go to the basket like I want to do. I struggled a little bit trying to find easy ones and get going.”
Respect for Melo
Carmelo Anthony announced his retirement on Monday after he played 19 seasons in the NBA. He leaves the game as a lock to make the Hall of Fame as one of the greatest scorers in league history, finishing ninth on the all-time scoring list with 28,289 points. Anthony certainly has the respect of several Celtics, who were growing up when he was in his prime.
Jayson Tatum modeled some of his game after Anthony and has become close with him, and posted several photos of them together on his Instagram
story after the retirement announcement. “One of my idols. Appreciate everything champ! Congrats on legendary career,” Tatum wrote on Instagram.
Malcolm Brogdon appreciates Anthony for more than what he accomplished on the basketball court.
“He’s one of the legends, what he’s done for this league, what he’s done for I think New York, what he’s done for Denver, what he’s done for all the teams he’s played with,” Brogdon said. “But more than anything he’s also been an activist, he’s always been one of the guys that as a young guy in the league you could always talk to, somewhat of a mentor, and I think just a good guy, really setting an example for younger guys how to conduct yourself
and how to respect the game.”
Golden State’s Steph Curry was named the winner of the Kareem Abdul-jabbar Social Justice award by the NBA on Tuesday, and the league will donate $100,000 on Curry’s behalf to the University of San Francisco Institute for Nonviolence and Social Justice. Celtics forward Grant Williams was named one of four finalists and will receive a $25,000 donation to a social justice organization of his choosing. … Heat star Jimmy Butler was fined $25,000 by the league for violating media access rules after he did not participate in required media availability following Miami’s Game 3 win.