Plus: My thoughts on the Ime Udoka Situation
The Boston Celtics are regarded as the team to beat in the Eastern Conference, after a 2022 Finals appearance and only narrowly losing the championship to Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors. They’re still the favorites to win the 2023 NBA Championship, but their offseason just took a turn for the worse, and for more than one reason.
Let’s start with one of the reasons that may have gotten more swept under the rug thanks to recent news. Robert Williams, the Celtics’ starting center, is having surgery on his left knee, and the recovery will take four to six weeks. Hopefully, the surgery will go smoothly with no complications, and Williams will be back soon, but the Celtics must proceed with caution. They’ve had issues with rehab in the past, such as with Isaiah Thomas. In fact, the way the Celtics handled that particular situation was so bad that it scared off Anthony Davis from joining the team.
So, while chances are everything will be fine, Williams needs to take his time and proceed with caution. He played through most of the 2022 NBA Playoffs injured and had surgery six months ago to repair a torn meniscus. Williams just needs to come back fully healthy, and if he does, then he’ll once again anchor the Celtics’ defense and could be in contention for Defensive Player of the Year.
Again on the injury spectrum, Danilo Gallinari tore his ACL and will miss all of the 2022-23 season. This is extremely bothersome for the Celtics, as one of the key areas where the team struggled last year was bench depth. During the playoffs, the Celtics rotation consisted of eight men, with only Grant Williams, Payton Pritchard, and Derrick White getting playing time off the bench. With Gallinari, Jayson Tatum wouldn’t have had to play 40+ minutes per night, and the team wouldn’t have lost much in the way of three-point shooting and wing defense. Now, they’ve lost this luxury for their next title run.
However, the thing that everyone’s been talking about as a threat to the Celtics title run is the recent allegations made against Head Coach Ime Udoka.
I have many opinions about the Udoka situation, and how it was handled. However, before I dive into them, I want to make one thing clear: The Celtics have not released any statements or held a press conference regarding this issue, and my current opinions are based on the news that has currently been provided to me. If the current situation changes with any new developments, then some of these opinions may prove to no longer be insightful, or accurately reflect my viewpoints.
First of all, this news should never have been leaked by Shams or Woj. This is an internal matter between Udoka, Brad Stevens, and the Celtics organization, and there was no reason for the public to know. Shams and Woj didn’t have to report this information, even though it was a great scoop. I remember reading in Scottie Pippen‘s memoir about a reporter that Pippen was close with during the 1990s. Originally, when Pippen told the reporter that he wanted out of Chicago, the reporter didn’t write anything in the paper. He thought Pippen was joking, and Pippen actually had to go back to him and tell the reporter that he was serious, and wanted his trade request in print.
Just because you receive information doesn’t mean you have to share it, but I don’t blame Shams and Woj as much as I blame the Celtics organization. The Celtics were the ones that leaked this to the media, and should have known what was going to happen the second they did. In addition, reports had come out that the Celtics briefed their players on the situation before they leaked the news, so the question remains: how long did the Celtics know about this before they leaked the news?
Another reason for why the Celtics shouldn’t have leaked the news was because of the disservice they did to other employees. By saying Udoka had an intimate relationship with a female within the Celtics organization, everyone on social media has been trying to guess who this female is. This is extremely unfair to the women that work for the Celtics, and they don’t deserve the public scrutiny that is coming upon them.
Now, the Celtics have issued a statement confirming that they are suspending Udoka for the full 2022-23 season. One year is far too long for the suspension, unless we get new developments. In no way am I condoning this affair, especially since Udoka is a married man. However, let’s look at it this way:
When Gilbert Arenas brought a firearm into an NBA locker room, he was suspended for 50 games.
When Latrell Sprewell choked out his Head Coach, he was suspended for 68 games.
When a report was released detailing Robert Sarver’s racism and misogyny as owner of the Phoenix Suns, the NBA fined him $10 million and suspended him for one season.
When Deshaun Watson sexually assaulted 20+ women, he was suspended for half the season (2 months).
All of these offenses are much worse than what we believe Udoka has done at this point in time, and while there should indeed be a punishment for this kind of behavior, suspension for the entire season feels like a bit much.
Suspension for one season could also mean close to the same thing as resignation. How many Head Coaches have spent a year away from their team only to come back the next year and coach at the same levels? When Phil Jackson walked away from the Lakers, he did so by his own choice, and came back a few seasons later. Yes, he did help coach the Lakers and Kobe Bryant to two championships when he returned, but he’s also Phil Jackson, the greatest coach of all time.
Hopefully we’ll get some clarity from both the Celtics organization and the NBA as a whole soon, because I can’t wait for all the speculation to stop. When not given all the facts, people assume the rest, which can be very dangerous. The situation could be much worse then we think, or really not as bad; but for now, we’re left in the dark.
What do you think of the Udoka situation? Let me know your thoughts in the comments, don’t forget to follow the NBA Blog, and as always, have an awesome day!