Ime Udoka’s San Antonio roots were supposed to pave the way for numerous former Spurs players to Beantown this offseason. Yet, despite reported interest in the likes of Patty Mills, Rudy Gay and Danny Green, nothing came to fruition. Despite a moderate splash late in the process with the addition of Dennis Schroder, the Boston Celtics have remained relatively quiet throughout free agency, shifting their focus on finding financial flexibility for next summer’s class. However, that’s not to say that was always the plan.
DeMar DeRozan, one of the premier wings on this year’s market, landed in Chicago via a sign-and-trade deal. The Bulls shipped two players and three draft picks to the Spurs in order to secure Derozan’s services on a three-year, $85 million contract. Yet, while the 32-year-old Compton native may have ultimately picked the Bulls, he had more than a few other teams knocking on his door with an interest in bringing him aboard — the Celtics being one of them, per Bleacher Report’s Jake Fischer.
“DeRozan garnered interest from several other teams early in free agency, such as [the] Philadelphia [76ers], Portland [Trail Blazers], Phoenix [Suns], Golden State [Golden State Warriors], Boston [Celtics] and New York [Knicks],” wrote Fischer. “The Knicks quickly pivoted to splurge on Evan Fournier. For Golden State, acquiring DeRozan would have necessitated a complicated salary-matching sign-and-trade with the Spurs that would have sent out Kelly Oubre. But that framework never gained much traction, sources said.”
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The Preferred Evan Fournier Replacement?
Whether DeRozan’s market got too rich or president Brad Stevens simply opted to pivot his free agency plans, we’re not certain. With that said, it’s no surprise that the Celtics showed interest in adding DeRozan around the same time their working relationship with Evan Fournier was coming to an end.
Acquired at last year’s deadline, contract talks with the Frenchman began to go south in the days leading up to the opening of free agency. By the first night of legal negotiations, Fournier landed a deal with the division-rival Knicks, ending his tenure in Boston after just 21 games (playoffs included).
DeRozan spent the past three seasons in San Antonio, the initial of which he crossed paths with Udoka, who served his final year under head coach Gregg Popovich in 2018. Over DeRozan’s tenure with the Spurs, the former All-NBA second-teamer averaged 21.6 points, 6.2 assists and 5.3 rebounds per game.
Coach Udoka Talks Josh Richardson
With DeRozan in Chicago and Fournier in New York, it looks as Josh Richardson will be inheriting plenty of minutes at the two and three spots come next season. Over the past two years, Richardson struggled, failing to emulate his strong showing in 2018 with the Miami Heat where he averaged 16.6 points and 4.1 assists. However, coach Udoka doesn’t believe his play in Philadelphia and Dallas, namely his spotty shooting, is indicative of the player the Celtics have received.
“He didn’t shoot as well the last few years, but we are going to get him back to that,” Udoka said, via Mass Live’s Brian Robb. “He’s a better shooter than he showed in Dallas.”
Richardson shot a combined 42.85% from the field and 33.55% from beyond the arc with the Sixers and Mavericks.