There was plenty of turmoil to go around in Boston last year. After a run to the Eastern Conference Finals in 2019-20, the Celtics went through what can modestly be described as hiccup. A pretty big one, at that. A 36-36 record barely put them at home for a play-in game, and a 5-game drubbing at the hands of the Brooklyn Nets only showed how far away this team was from competing in the East.
However, 2021 is a new year; hoards of players have come and gone since the end of last season. No move, however, was more important than a shift in the coaching department. After eight years running the show, it was clear that Brad Stevens lost his way in the locker room. Great basketball mind? Yes. Capable of running the helm for every organization in the league? Another yes, but that isn’t enough.
Fast forward to the present, and new head honcho Ime Udoka is proving that basketball IQ isn’t the only trait needed in a coach. Udoka has proven from day one that he doesn’t expect anything but the best from his players.
The players are listening.
Yes, it’s the preseason, but through two games, Boston has looked sharp. Udoka has roughed this team into shape. An aggressive shape. Superstar Jayson Tatum has been a machine and has looked better on the attack. His biggest leap? His ability to move the ball, keeping the defense on their heels. That will either give Boston an open look or a bucket right back in the hands of Tatum.
With the amount of roster turnover in the offseason (only 5 of the Celtics top 10 leaders in MPG and PPG still remain on the roster), a lot of tinkering to open the year should be expected. Regardless, it’s clear this team has the tools to compete in the loaded Eastern Conference this upcoming season.
“He exudes a confidence and a comfort in his own skin where people just gravitate to him,” Popovich said of his former assistant in 2015. “He’s a fundamentally sound teacher because he’s comfortable with himself, he knows the material and players read it.”
Boston will open the season on October 20th in Madison Square Garden to take on the New York Knicks.
Photo: (Winslow Townson – AP Photo)
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