Why Ime Udokan should encourage Celtics fans after 14 games


The first 14 games of Ime Udoka have been contradictory, but real positive signs are coming.

Ime Udoka

Boston Celtics ’Jayson Tatum will be discussing with head coach Ime Udoka in the second half of the NBA basketball game. AP Photo / Michael Dwyer

Monday – after the Celtics defeated the Cavaliers in a battle that answered the question “Who wants to make more unsatisfactory victories?” – Jayson Tatum was asked to report on the progress of the new coach Ime Udoka.

Tatum opened his line at Udoka and pointed out how difficult it is to be the head coach of the first year. Then he touched something new.

“As if we were in a relationship,” Tatum said. “We’re trying to help each other achieve the same goal.”

Tatum is both the right and wrong person to answer this question because he has struggled tremendously to keep the equation in his head. Of course, Tatum doesn’t intentionally lose shots, and this cold eruption is certainly not permanent. The 23-year-old later stated – in a very sincere response from his struggles – that he had never missed so much except in his career, and he expects to fully figure it out for himself. But Tatum’s struggles have undermined every plan the Celtics have made this season, making it about one-fifth of Udoka’s evaluation during his first season.

Still, some genuinely positive signs are penetrating through the concrete.

Celtics media and fans have raised a lot of concern about Udoka – some fair, some less. We get to them.

But before we look at the concerns, let’s look at the positives.

Positive things

After a slow start – as low as 10 percentage points – the Celtics have come back to life. According to the NBA statistics website, the Celtics have the 10th best defense rating – the fourth best in their last 10 matches (and again, the season is only 14 games old). Celtics have excellent defensive staff, and Udoka is building something that seems to work.

He also seems to have a process.

“The first 10 games we really felt like we really got to where we were supposed to be,” Udoka said Monday. “May still grow in this area, but the attack is now kind of the focus, go and see how we can do more than 98, because we have less than 100 teams.”

In other words: The defense was assembled first, and now the attack must follow.

It’s a process.


What are Celtics fans most concerned about? Based on our scientific information retrieval method (tweeting a couple from Udoka and reading the answers), the three biggest concerns are: Rotations, the final strategy of the game, and the use of young friends.

First, the rounds. Udoka has repeatedly repeatedly said that players have been “in and out” of the lineup since the pre-season. Still, Udoka has largely put together successful lineups. Six of his eight most used groups have a positive net rating.

In addition, some of these configurations have been excellent. The second most used lineup this season (108 game accounts) is Dennis Schröder, Marcus Smart, Jaylen Brown, Tatum and Rob Williams, with a net worth of 6.2 according to Cleaning the Glass. That’s equal to the Suns team’s net rating, the NBA’s fifth-best net rating.

The third most used line-up – perfectly healthy starters: Smart, Brown, Tatum, Brown and Horford – has received a net rating of +7.5 106 in the game, ranking second and third best in the league between Utah and Miami. .

There are ghosts for sure. The starting lineup without Jaylen Brown breaks to 0.0. The 25 holdings played by Schröder, Josh Richardson, Romeo Langford, Grant Williams, and Al Horford were a mildly small-sample disaster at -23.3, though you can see how such a lineup could form with Brown’s output.

Overall, however, Udoka’s lineups have been good.

What about the final strategy of his game?

That is a more interesting question. There is a statistic called “expected profit difference” in glass cleaning. Simply put, it measures how many teams win should has given its attack and defense rating. Statistically, 7-7 Celtics should be 8-6 (pessimistic) or 9-5 (optimistic).

Of course, this figure may be distorted due to a number of circumstances. For example: Tatum fires 29.4 percent in the last three minutes in games within five points and an almost comical 12.5 percent in the final minute of a tight game. His occupancy rate is stable in the mid-30s, which puts him at 100 percent of all attackers.

Translation: Tatum shoots more than anyone else in the NBA in his own place as a shredder, and this season he misses almost all of his shots.

Will Tatum’s better performance fix any problems with the late game? Maybe not, but it’s not a big stretch to imagine improved crunch-time figures from Tatum raising the Celtics 8-6 or 9-5. If the Celtics were 9-5 during Tatum’s struggle, the conversation could be very different.

Finally, it is a question of young players. Encouraged by Brad Stevens, who coached in the same way, Udoka prefers to play his veterans. This leaves Payton Pritchard and Aaron Nesmith in the cold in particular. Pritchard plays an average of just 10.6 minutes per match, while Nesmith plays only 9.5 minutes. Josh Richardson, meanwhile, plays 24.2 minutes per race.

But consider the mandate Udoka received from the Celtics leadership when he was hired. Throughout the offseason, Stevens stressed that everything the organization should do should make life easier for Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. Maybe Pritchard and Nesmith would help, but Udoka is hardly alone among the coaches in trusting veterans more than youth.

Another thing to consider: Presumably Udoka wants to make a splash. The Celtics may say what they want to do about Udoka as their next long-term coach, but while the development of Pritchard and Nesmith may be helpful from an organizational standpoint, they are not the focus of attention. Udoka’s mission is primarily to make Celtics a challenger and – secondarily, but certainly related – to make Boston a place where Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown want to play long-term.

If Udoka (very reasonably) sees keeping Tatum and Brown happy as crucial to his job safety, and if he (very reasonably) sees profits as a way to keep Tatum and Brown happy, it’s a short trip to “play veterans whenever possible.”

So who is Udoka as a coach?

None of this is meant to be an apology – no coach is perfect, few first-year coaches are elite, and Udoka is hardly an exception. Tatum, for example, drives much more isolation and significantly less pick and roll. Presumably, there are many ways Stevens and the front office would like Udoka to evolve.

But the poorly successful Celtics are knocking on the door of a stable season. Udoka is not Gregg Popovich. He’s also not Stevens, Mike D’Antoni or (thankfully) Jason Kidd or anyone else. Udoka is himself – a new coach whose ability in the director’s chair has not yet been fully tested.

Early indicators are positive enough. Celtics fans may be smart to allow Udoka’s coaching style to show up.

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