Former NBA journeyman turned podcaster Matt Barnes has reversed course after he stood up for suspended Celtics head coach Ime Udoka.
Barnes on Thursday night took to social media to argue that Udoka's one-year suspension for a reported "improper" relationship with a female staffer was too harsh, given that Phoenix Suns and Mercury owner Robert Sarver was handed essentially the same punishment for racist and sexist behavior in the workplace.
But on Friday, Barnes walked back his defense of Udoka after claiming to have learned additional facts about Udoka's situation. Per Black Sports Online:
"I clearly have to say that, last night, without knowing all the facts, I spoke in Ime Udoka's defense, and after finding out the facts after I spoke, I erased what I posted. Because this situation in Boston is deep, it’s messy, it’s 100 times uglier than any of us thought, and that's what I erased what I said."
Barnes had initially dismissed the Udoka situation as one that is not unusual in league circles.
“I played in the league for a long time," Barnes said on Thursday. "Anyone in the league could tell you this is a very common situation. This is not new news for people who’ve been in the league or around organizations. I’ve seen it from owners to executives, to coaches, to players, to trainers, to therapists, to dancers, to PR ladies. This is not uncommon.”
But on Friday, Barnes changed his tune.
"Some things happened that I can’t condone, I can't back. It’s not my place to tell you what happened, if it ends up coming out, it ends up coming out. But that that was the reason why I erased my post last night -- because after I posted it, I got a call from someone who had all the details, and shit is deep. Man, praying for everyone involved. Hope everyone gets through this."
Barnes himself is no stranger to scandals. In 2015, he was fined and suspended by the NBA after an altercation with former teammate Derek Fisher, then the head coach of the New York Knicks, after Fisher had begun dating Barnes' estranged wife, Gloria Govan. Fisher and Govan later wed.
Meanwhile the details of the Udoka case remain unclear. On Thursday, the Celtics suspended Udoka, officially for violating unspecified team policies, through June 2023. The move came just months after Udoka coached the Celtics to the NBA Finals.
The 45-year-old averaged 18 minutes per game in his seven-year playing career before transitioning into coaching over the past decade, spending time with the Spurs, 76ers and Nets before being hired by the Celtics. He apologized to the Celtics organization, fans, and his family for "letting them down."
Udoka has one child with his longtime partner, longtime actress Nia Long, who was often seen at TD Garden during the Celtics' run last season. She also posted in support of the team on social media.
On Friday, Long expressed gratitude for public support in response to the Udoka scandal through a spokesperson, per CNN:
"The outpouring love and support from family, friends and the community during this difficult time means so much to me," she said in the statement. "I ask that my privacy be respected as I process the recent events. Above all, I am a mother and will continue to focus on my children."