“Udoka is my COY… the C’s were like 25-25 at one point midseason now about to sweep the nets,” Kuzma tweeted following Boston’s six-point win over the Nets on Saturday, April 23.
Boston now holds a commanding three-game lead over the Nets in the first round of the 2022 NBA Playoffs, and rookie head coach Ime Udoka is widely considered to be dishing out a masterclass to Steve Nash.
From defensive schemes to in-game adjustments, Udoka seems to be making the right calls at the right time, while Nash is clearly running out of options to try and get a foothold back in the series.
Of course, not all of the issues Nash is facing are his fault, the Celtics are a deep and well-constructed roster where every member of the playoff rotation is a two-way threat, whereas Brooklyn’s team is geared around two superstars who are both struggling to deal with the Celtics physicality on defense.
Udoka Has Overcome a Tough Start
When Ime Udoka was acquired as the Celtics’ latest head coach, there was a palpable excitement around the fan base. Udoka was widely regarded as one of the best assistants in the NBA, and his time working under Greg Popovich meant that he had a first-class education.
But, after taking the Celtics job, things got off to a rocky start. The Celtics looked disjointed on offense and confused on the defensive end. Those teething issues led to the Celtics dropping multiple games from winning positions, which in turn led to frustration among fans and the players themselves.
Those frustrations boiled over when Marcus Smart gave his now infamous post-game press conference following a loss to the Chicago Bulls on November 1.
Things didn’t improve for the Celtics right away, but since January 1, 2022, the Celtics have become the best defensive unit in the NBA, and one of the best offensive teams too. A lot of the team’s improvements have been down to the players buying into Udoka’s message, and Udoka becoming more fluid with his coaching decisions, both of which have seen the Celtics become a dark-horse contender for an NBA championship this season.
Stephen A Smith Sings Udoka’s Praises
Stephen A Smith is often known for his hot takes and impassioned speeches surrounding every major topic in sports. So, when he decided to sound off on Udoka’s accomplishments this season, it was interesting to hear his thoughts.
“Udoka, what he has done, this guy is a legitimate top-two coach of the year candidate. When you look at what he has done – this team, look at them defensively, they’re like a bunch of piranhas. They switch everywhere, you’ve got five guys, they get out on shooters better than anybody I have seen,” Smith said during a March 22 episode of ESPN’S First Take.
As with most TV analysts, their assessments are usually harsh but fair. But it’s rare that a first-year head coach finds themself as a primary discussion point on mainstream national TV – however, when you help a team become the number one defensive unit in the NBA, in your first season on the job, the recognition is bound to come.
The Celtics are one win away from moving onto the second round of the playoffs, where they will likely face the Milwaukee Bucks. Should Udoka steer his team past the reigning champions and into the conference finals, his reputation will take another leap forward, and judging by how his team is currently playing, he deserves it.