Celtics’ Udoka Sets Agenda for Improving on ’20-21 Effort

Celtics coach Ime Udoka with Team USA

Getty Boston Celtics coach Ime Udoka works out with USA Basketball in preparation for the Tokyo Olympics.

The Boston Celtics and team president Brad Stevens may have entered the offseason with a ton of work to do, but the Beantowners seemingly did well to improve their standing entering the 2021-22 NBA season.

For his part, The Athletic’s John Hollinger thought that Boston did incredibly well with what it had to work with — even before Stevens snagged Dennis Schroder at a bargain-basement price. Meanwhile, Bleacher Report’s Zach Buckley gave the team an A+ for the Schroder signing and no lower than a B-grade for its other major moves.

As good as the Celtics offseason was, though, the team still has work to do on the floor in order to ensure it doesn’t repeat the disappointment of last season. To that, new head coach Ime Udoka will be tasked with getting the most out of the roster Stevens has given him.

During an appearance on the NESN/WEEI Jimmy Fund Radio-Telethon this week, Udoka shed some light on a few of the areas he’s targeting in an effort to improve team performance.

Udoka Aiming for “More of a Team-Style of Basketball”

Even as the team sputtered to a 36-36 record and a quick first-round exit in 2020-21, it was abundantly clear that the Cs could put up points. In particular, All-Stars Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown have been among the Association’s best bucket-getters for multiple years now and both players reached new heights last season.

However, Udoka would like to see both of them become more adept at making plays for their teammates.

“Jayson and Jaylen, like I’ve mentioned quite a few times in trying to make those guys better playmakers,” he said. “They’re pretty natural scorers, but in general some of the additions we’ve added to the roster, I think [we aim for] playing more of a team-style of basketball.”

Udoka isn’t just focused on offense, though. He’s also hoping for Boston to get back to playing bulldog-style defense.

“But also getting back to where they were defensively two or three years ago,” he said. “They took a step back in some areas there, so we’re digging in on that and trying to put our stamp on the team defensively as well.”

After finishing with the league’s No. 4 overall defense in 2019-20, conceding just 106.5 points per 100 possessions, the Cs’ defensive rating ballooned to 111.8 in ’20-21, which ranked 13th overall. Meanwhile, their defensive three-point field goal percentage of 37.4% was a bottom-10 mark league-wide.

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Is Marcus Smart Slated to Star at the Point?

As relayed by Heavy’s Josue Pavon, Udoka also spoke at length about Marcus Smart and what will be expected of the former No. 6 overall pick next season. In a nutshell, the Celtics coach wants Smart to shoulder a heavier load.

“We’ve talked to him a ton about it and made it clear we want him to take another step in his career,” Udoka said.

Earlier in the offseason, there were rumblings that Smart could be called upon to becoming the Celtics’ starting point guard. And while the Schroder acquisition seemingly quelled that chatter, Udoka’s comments could be an indication that Smart is still in play at the point.

“Marcus [is] a guy that hasn’t always been the starting point guard or a guy that hasn’t always had the ball in his hands at times; he’s yearning for that,” he added. “So we’ll entrust to him to have more responsibility on his hands.”


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