Ime Udoka Asks Celtics Star to ‘Take Another Step’ in 2021-22

Getty Images Marcus Smart and Jaylen Brown of the Celtics

Boston Celtics head coach Ime Udoka has set the bar higher than most first-year NBA head coaches.

For Udoka, the standard for excellence comes at a price of hard work and lofty expectations. He’s been an assistant coach in the association long enough to know as much, especially after sharing a bench with San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich — one of the greatest head coaches the NBA has ever seen — for seven seasons.

For Celtics president of basketball operations Brad Stevens, the price for veteran point guard Marcus Smart came at a four-year, $77.1 million extension. A commitment from Boston that comes with the utmost request — which is to see Smart take his game to new heights.

Celtics’ Ime Udoka On Marcus Smart: ‘We’re Looking for a lot of Different Things’

Udoka joined the NESN/WEEI Jimmy Fund Radio-Telethon, Tuesday and talked about Smart’s role this upcoming season, along with which contributing factors went into deciding to extend Marcus’ contract.

“We’re looking at a lot of different things,” Udoka said regarding Smart, via “He’s obviously going to be called on to do a lot of things. But we haven’t finalized our roster all the way yet, so depending on what we do there we can go certain different ways. But we’ve talked to him a ton about it and made it clear we want him to take another step in his career. And by giving him that extension we have full faith in him. He has done great things. The age, the toughness and the attitude he brings to the team is invaluable.

“For him to take another step is to have the ball in his hands more and be a playmaker and just be a great decision-maker for the guys. He realizes who he’s playing with and I think that will be a benefit with the new mentality that he has.”

Ime is hoping it will lead to a new and improved version of Marcus.

“We are going to play to guys’ strengths, and I always say knowing your weaknesses is a strength. So we talk to guys about roles,” the coach said, per WEEI. “The league, in general, is a green light league and you have probably subpar shooters that are taking shots like they’re 40-45 percent three-point shooters. We don’t want to take away from their strengths, and their confidence. So we want to build on those things. But at the same time, you have to realize who you are playing within different roles. Things change over the years.”

Celtics’ Ime Udoka On Dennis Schroder: ‘We Want to Build on Everybody’s Strengths’

Supplementing the second unit with an offensive weapon he can rely on, Udoka’s also looking forward to working with veteran guard Dennis Schroder, who he believes will make an immediate impact for the Celtics in 2021-22.

“Dennis (Schroder) has been a great starter and he has also come off the bench and done well in Oklahoma City and other places,” Udoka added. “We want to build on everybody’s strengths and be confident but at the same time know who you are playing with and know there is a pecking order within the team.”


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