Woj: Celtics players ‘never got over Ime Udoka’s dismissal’


Wiggy is done with the Tatum-Brown duo

There certainly seem to be some problems with the Celtics that go beyond their play on the court, which has been poor enough to land them in an 0-3 hole in the Eastern Conference Finals.

According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, some of those problems might still be lingering from the team’s preseason decision to suspend former coach Ime Udoka for “violations of team policies” – reportedly an inappropriate workplace relationship.

Udoka was hired as the head coach of the Houston Rockets last month.

While it’s not new information that Celtics players liked Udoka and didn’t think they were getting enough answers about his suspension, Wojnarowski revisited the topic on NBA Countdown Monday night and shed some light on how it’s still affecting the team.

“This team, this locker room, they never got over Ime Udoka’s dismissal as head coach,” Woj said. “These players did not accept the organization’s reasoning for doing it. They thought it was a wild overreaction. There were a lot of people on the outside who thought it was an overreaction, that it was an HR matter.

“I think for this team, talking with management, they felt they never got any more answers than the public was getting on this. Now, 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. And I think there were a couple instances this season where a lot of that angst resurfaced – first when the Brooklyn Nets nearly hired Udoka as head coach, and then when the Rockets did.”

It’s interesting that this is surfacing again now, with the Celtics’ season collapsing in spectacular fashion against the Heat. Is this Woj bringing it up on his own as a way to try to explain where the disconnect is with this Celtics team? Or is he hearing this from someone on the Celtics again now?

If it’s the latter, that would obviously be even more concerning for this team. Why would anyone in that locker room be spending even a second thinking about the Udoka situation at this point in the season?

It’s one thing if there’s a disconnect between Joe Mazzulla and the players – something Mazzulla admitted himself after Game 3 – or if there are players who think Mazzulla is in over his head. But it would be another to still be focused on how the Udoka situation was handled.

Udoka hasn’t been part of the team literally all season. At some point, guys needed to move on and worry only about what they could control. Woj’s reporting suggests that turning of the page may have never happened, which would only be a further indictment of this team’s mental fortitude, or lack thereof.

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