Ime Udoka Explains Why Celtics Haven’t Named Captains Yet

Getty Images Celtics head coach Ime Udoka directs his team

Boston Celtics president of basketball operations Brad Stevens named longtime NBA assistant Ime Udoka head coach during the offseason knowing the philosophy and principles that Ime preaches are conducive to building the 2021-22 Celtics.

Stevens, who stepped down after seven consecutive seasons as head coach, perhaps has the best understanding of whose voice would resonate best for this group. A new defense predicated on switching along with an overall state of accountability are two main pillars of Ime’s beliefs.

So when Udoka announced, prior to the start of the regular season, that he was going to assign two team captains, it certainly didn’t come as a surprise.

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Fans made their best well-educated guesses: ones that included Celtics All-Star duo Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, starting point guard Marcus Smart, and veteran Al Horford, to name a few.

Ime Udoka On Naming Celtics Captains: ‘That’s Probably in The Rearview’

However, when the topic arose after team shootaround, Tuesday afternoon, Udoka had a surprising response.

“No, that’s probably in the rearview,” Udoka replied to whether the Celtics are close to naming a pair of captains. “I mentioned earlier, it was a focus until guys were missing. With Al (Horford) and Jaylen (Brown) going out, and then the focus became on lineups, rotations, and all of that. But, as I mentioned, they all do it in different ways. Jayson is a guy that does on the court every day here, maybe not as vocal as some other guys. But, Al (Horford) and Marcus (Smart) do it in their own way, and Jaylen brings some as well.

“So, it is something I haven’t thought about much as far as initially in the season. But, due to the circumstances, that’s probably in the rearview, honestly.”

The Celtics have had their fair share of guys missing games, including Brown, who suffered from a strained hamstring against the Miami Heat last week, which could lead to Jaylen missing up to two weeks.

Why ‘Spacing’ is Key for Ime Udoka, Celtics

However, according to Ime, focusing on the offense’s style of play has taken precedent over naming captains.

“Spacing has been a big thing. Earlier in the season, I think we were number one after the first four games in corner 3s. So, we’re really emphasizing our spacing,” Udoka said. “And now, the last six games, we’ve been one of the top teams getting to the basket. So, we’re really touching on our spacing. Worked on some blitzing that teams have done with Jayson, with Jaylen being out in Chicago a few games ago and obviously last game with Dallas.

“So, touching on a few things as far as that, as well, implementing a different package with Jaylen out, for our second unit.”

Hoping to avenge losing their home opener while simultaneously earning their first win at TD Garden, this season, the Celtics will host the Toronto Raptors, Wednesday night before welcoming the champion Milwaukee Bucks, Friday. With Brown out, Udoka is looking forward to the tests that lie ahead.

“We’re hitting on quite a few things, looked at the numbers after 10 games and I like where we’re heading,” Udoka added. “But, I think we’re, overall, fourth in assisted field goals. The percentage isn’t great but the actual fact that we’re passing and finding guys has been good. So, continuing to work on that with our spacing leads us to all those areas.”