Before the season got underway, news broke that the Boston Celtics were suspending head coach Ime Udoka for breach of organization policy, just months after he lead the team to the NBA Finals.
After the news had broke, the Celtics announced they were elevating Joe Mazzulla from his assistant coaching position to that of head coach – which they made permanent during the All-Star break and confirmed the release of Udoka.
When addressing the media ahead of the Celtics’ March 26 clash with the San Antonio Spurs, Greg Popovich discussed the situation Udoka finds himself in, noting his disappointment.
“Well, Ime was, is, and always will be a great friend,” Popovich said. “And so you can imagine that I was deeply disappointed and hurt for him. For everybody involved.
It’s a difficult situation for him. And my hope is that he will bounce back and find a home.”
The Celtics have amassed a 51-23 record under Mazzulla and will be hoping to go one step further than the NBA finals this year by winning their 18th championship banner.
Greg Popovich Sounds Off on Derrick White
During the same press conference, Popovich was also asked about the growth of Derrick White since joining the Celtics at the February 2022 trade deadline in a deal that saw Romeo Langford and Josh Richardson head to the Spurs.
“Derek’s a really special case of someone, over time, figuring out that he belongs,” Popovich said. “He started out in a small college situation, obviously, and matriculated to a division one school, and then we got him and in development, he was just outstanding. He spent a lot of time before and after practices and, you know, summer leagues and learned how to play.
He had the size at that position to do it. And the immediate thing that you could see was that he had an instinctive nose for the game. He understood how to play. Most NBA players don’t know how to play. He did. And he added skill development on top of that, you know, he’s been working a lot on his shot, ball handling, pick and roll, those sorts of things. And he just got better and better because he put so much time in, and then it was just a matter of convincing him that he did belong, so that his confidence would grow. And you’ve seen that continue, you know, in his time here in Boston, so, a special young man”
White’s performances this season have seen him become an ever-present in Boston’s rotation, while his consistency has a large portion of the fanbase ready to crown him as the team’s third-best player.
Joe Mazzulla Speaks on Romeo Langford’s Progress
Before Romeo Langford was sent to the Spurs, he spent a lot of time working with Mazzulla and the rest of the Celtics assistant coaches as they looked to help him improve his game and carve out a role for himself in the NBA.
When asked about Langford’s improvements since leaving the Celtics, Mazzulla credited his defensive ability and aggressiveness on the offensive end.
“I think he’s gotten better, especially on the defensive end, I mean, he’s a really, really solid defender,” Mazzulla said. “And the first game against him, I thought he played really well in attacking and just have to be able to handle it.”
Langford won’t be part of the Spurs rotation when they face the Celtics on March 26, as he is listed on the team’s injury report, but he will be hoping that his performances this season have been enough for him to remain in the league when his current contract expires at the end of the season and he becomes a restricted free agent.