Woj: Celtics players still not accepting Udoka exit, believe dismissal a ‘wild overreaction’
As they are on the cusp of settling for a humiliating postseason exit, several issues are now resurfacing at the side of the Boston Celtics – which includes the never-ending talks of their split-up with Ime Udoka
Discussing several factors on why Boston is shockingly struggling against the eight-seed Miami Heat, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski revealed that the Celtics players still haven’t been able to process yet the dismissal of Udoka as their head coach.
Udoka, who boldly mentored the C’s as a neophyte top coach last year all the way to a robust NBA Finals finish, was notably suspended by the franchise last offseason due to his improper relationship with a team staffer. In mid-February, he was then released by the organization, as the team removed the interim tag on the 34-year-old Joe Mazzulla to become their latest head coach.
“This team, this locker room, they never got over Ime Udoka’s dismissal as head coach,” Wojnarowski told Mike Greenberg on NBA Countdown. “These players did not accept the organization’s reasoning for doing it. They thought it was a wild overreaction. There are a lot of people on the outside who thought it was an overreaction. It was an HR matter.”
“For this team and talking with management, I think they felt, they never got the answers. They got any more answers than the public was getting on this.”
Under Mazzulla, the Celtics still managed to deliver a top-two regular season record in the entire NBA this 2022-23 season. But as a club with extreme championship aspirations with a well-rounded roster starred by the Jayson Tatum-Jaylen Brown combo, the way the C’s were blowing their large momentums and that lack of homecourt playoff success forced almost the entire Boston fandom to make an uproar about the young tactician.
After surviving in a seven-game war against the Philadelphia 76ers in the previous Conference Semis, the Celtics, now facing a horrifying 0-3 series edge, are startling the entire league with their unexpected abysmal showing against the determined Heat team that managed to claw their way above as the East’s eight-seed.
Wojnarowski pointed out that the Celtics players’ denial of Udoka’s dismissal doesn’t imply that they are unconvinced about Mazzulla’s current management as their main play caller. He also noted that the players became upset when the Brooklyn Nets attempted to hire Udoka as their head coach early this season, and this reaction was repeated when the Houston Rockets ultimately hired him in April.
Amid the public’s perception, the Rockets dared to tap Udoka as their newest bench boss with the franchise looking to elevate its status after three-straight years of being a lowly basketball program prioritizing a rebuild.
“That doesn’t mean they haven’t accepted Joe Mazzulla as head coach, but this is a team that really believed in Ime Udoka, had a strong connection with him,” Wojnarowski said. “I think there were a couple of instances this season where a lot of angst resurfaced first when the Brooklyn Nets nearly hired Udoka as head coach, and then when the Rockets did.”
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