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Celtics’ Marcus Smart on Ime Udoka situation with Nets: Surprised and confused

Celtics’ Marcus Smart on Ime Udoka situation with Nets: Surprised and confused

CLEVELAND — Boston Celtics guard Marcus Smart expressed confusion over reports that suspended head coach Ime Udoka is going to Brooklyn Nets. Until reports surfaced Tuesday, Smart believed Udoka would return to Boston’s bench next year.

“From what we know and what we’ve been told, it was just a suspension. “We didn’t know he was leaving to train someone else,” Smart said. “We thought they had suspended him for a year and he would come back. That’s why it’s confusing. We weren’t told too much about it.”

The Brooklyn Nets are closing in on a deal to hire Udoka to replace Steve Nash, The Athletic registered. Nash was fired this week after Brooklyn’s 2-5 start (now 2-6). Jacque Vaughn will coach the Nets in the meantime, and general manager Sean Marks said he has “absolutely not” hired a replacement yet.

Udoka was previously an assistant coach on Nash’s staff in Brooklyn.

Six weeks ago, Boston suspended Udoka for the 2022-23 season for multiple violations of team rules related to an intimate relationship with a female staff member in the organization. Joe Mazzulla has been promoted to replace Udoka for this season, although a permanent decision on his future has not been set.

If the Nets sign Udoka, he would return to the NBA bench just weeks after the start of the new season.

Celtics guard Jaylen Brown he said he played a role in originally bringing Udoka to Boston and was pleased to get another chance so soon.

“It would have been great if we could have figured out a way for it to be with us, but I guess that wasn’t the case,” Brown said. “I’m happy to see Black’s head coach back on his feet because I’ve seen situations where something like this might not have happened.”

Udoka led the Celtics to the NBA Finals in his only season as a head coach. He and Marks previously worked together as assistant coaches in San Antonio before Marks moved to the front office.

The news that Udoka was headed to Brooklyn this week shocked Smart.

“I think it left a lot of people just like, ‘What the hell is going on here?’ Because apparently they suspended him for violating team rules. And it’s like, ‘OK, now obviously it looks like more than a suspension. But he is still able to train. So what exactly was the team rule and how big was it to the point where they felt they needed to suspend him and then suddenly say, ‘You’re gone’ and let him go coach somewhere else?

“I think that’s the confusing part because nobody knows either side and there’s not much that people on either side can say and talk about. It’s just a difficult situation for every party involved.”

Smart said asking Celtics president Brad Stevens, his former head coach, won’t help because no one can reveal much information.

“I don’t think you’ll ever get a straight answer about what’s really going on because there’s only so much they can say and what they know,” Smart said. “You can ask, but I don’t think it will change anything, it will help. I think asking is just to express how you feel, whatever you feel, off your chest. But that’s really it. I don’t think it will change or affect any outcome. They made their decision.”

Stevens attended the Celtics’ shootaround Wednesday before their game against Cavaliersbut he did not address the press.

“I care about our guys the most,” Mazzulla said during his pregame news conference. “I care about how they process things, I care about what they go through. I hope they know we can always talk about anything. I had a lot of conversations with them about a number of things.

“But the most important thing for me is that they feel that they can only hear each other and that they can talk to me. We try to do this on a consistent basis. I hope they feel that way.”

Celtics ahead Jayson Tatum he did not want to talk about the reports until Udoka’s hiring becomes official. But Tatum said he was fully aware that Udoka could leave and coach another team.

Brown will continue to support Udoka regardless of where he lands.

“I wish he was here because Ime is a good guy. I believe that,” Brown said. “It’s just sad to see where he was, and everyone was worried about whether he would get another chance. So it sucks that she’s gone, to hear that she potentially has another chance, but I’m glad she’s able to get back on her feet.”


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(Ime Udoka and Marcus Smart photo: Jim Davis / The Boston Globe via Getty Images)





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