New Celtics coach Udoka wants to ‘bring the dog out’ in young stars

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BOSTON — When Ime Udoka looks at the Boston Celtics’ roster, he sees a team with pieces to build around and endless potential.

He also sees a chance — and has been given an invitation — to push the team’s youthful core harder than it was under his predecessor.

The 43-year-old Udoka was introduced as the 18th coach in team history Monday, marking the latest course correction for the franchise as it looks to maximize its current window to capture an 18th NBA championship.

“We’re here to win Banner 18 together,” Celtics co-owner Wyc Grousbeck said. “I know Ime will do everything he can to make that happen.”

A former NBA player and first-time head coach, Udoka was among the sought-after names in the annual coaching carousel after gaining steady buzz behind the scenes in recent seasons. He has seven years of playing experience with five teams, along with assistant coaching stops that included seven seasons on Gregg Popovich’s staff in San Antonio. He was there in 2013-14 when the Spurs won the NBA title.

He also spent a season in Philadelphia in 2019-20 and was an assistant with the Brooklyn Nets this past season.

Udoka said his collective time under Popovich provided the foundation for who he wants to be as a head coach.

“We have two young pillars that I’m excited to work with, a young crew of first-round picks that we need to accelerate their development,” Udoka said. “I’ll take something from all those stops, as I did as a player, coach as well, and I look forward to having success with our guys.”

Udoka takes over a Celtics team that reached the Eastern Conference finals in three of the previous four seasons before plummeting to the No. 7 seed this year and losing in the first round to Brooklyn.

After the five-game loss to the Nets, basketball boss Danny Ainge retired and coach Brad Stevens gave up his spot on the bench to replace him as team president of basketball operations.

It’s a lot of change, but Udoka won’t be starting from scratch in building bonds in the locker room.

He already has a relationship with Celtics All-Stars Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, coaching them when both were part of the U.S. men’s national team in 2018 and Udoka was an assistant under Popovich.

Stevens said previously that he’d reached out to Tatum and Brown for input during the coaching search. Udoka said the perception around the league is that both are MVP-caliber players.

That, combined with the history and expectations of the franchise, made Boston the most attractive job that was available, he said.

The task now is getting even more out of them.

“It’s my job to put them in situations to be successful, push them to be greater,” Udoka said. “The sky’s the limit with those guys. … You have two foundational young pillars like those two is exciting to build around them, continue to help them grow and reach their potential.”

Udoka also has familiarity with other players on the roster. He coached Al Horford his season in Philadelphia. The Portland, Oregon-born Udoka has also known fellow Oregon native Payton Pritchard since he was a kid.

If there was a criticism of Stevens’ coaching style during his tenure, it was that he was often too laid back and avoided being too hard on players at times.

Udoka said that the players have asked to be challenged by him. That’s perfect because he said he likes “to try to bring the dog out in guys.”

“They’re going to allow me to coach them, push them, and that’s what they like about me,” Udoka said. “They want to be pushed. They want to be directed toward winning. And you expect that from your stars.”

Udoka said he’s had a goal of becoming a head coach since he first started as an assistant, and was interviewed for jobs each of the past four seasons.

He believes he is getting his opportunity at the right time.

“If you would have told me I was going to be a finalist for so-and-so team or I could wait two years and fall into this situation, it would be a no-brainer to me,” Udoka said. “I knew it would come, the right situation would come and this is it.”

Report: Draymond Green facing potential discipline after fight with Jordan Poole

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Warriors practice got heated on Wednesday and Draymond Green reportedly escalated some chest bumping with Jordan Poole and punches were thrown. The team is now considering internal disciple, according to The Athletic.

When a heated interaction with guard Jordan Poole escalated, Green forcefully struck Poole and needed to be separated swiftly, sources said. Green and Poole came chest-to-chest, with both players pushing and shoving each other prior to Green’s escalation of the physical altercation, those sources said.

The two players had been jawing at each other when it escalated and Green punched Poole, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN. There aren’t details of the incident beyond that description (at least so far), although several reporters have confirmed the was a fight and the two had to be broken up. Poole was seen getting up shots after practice when the media was allowed in and reportedly was joking with teammates.

Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports Tweeted out what feels like the Draymond Green camp spin on the incident.

Warriors elder statesman Andre Iguodala Tweeted out this on the situation, wanting to keep it all in the family, and adding that “it broke my heart… but it fixed my vision.”

There is a history of tension between Green and Poole, including a public flare-up between the duo early last season, but the two talked after and smoothed things over. At least for a while.

What punishment Green will face from the team remains to be seen.

Poole is on the verge of an extension to his rookie contract, one where Tylyer Herro just set the market.

Green had hoped for an extension from the Warriors this offseason but there were limited discussions between the parties. Green can opt out of the final year of his contract at the end of this season and become a free agent.

Wizards’ Kispert likely to miss start of season due to sprained ankle

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The Washington Wizards made fewer 3-pointers than any other team in the league last season. They didn’t take a lot (second fewest) and didn’t make the ones they took (fifth lowest percentage). One goal for Wes Unlseld Jr. this season was to change that dynamic, and second-year player Corey Kispert was a big part of that plan.

Now Kispert is out through at least the start of the season, sidelined 4-6 weeks by a sprained ankle, the team announced Wednesday.

The injury happened on a fluke play in Japan against the Warriors, but Kispert shouldn’t miss much time once the real games start. The Wizards are a little short on the wing right now with Kispert joining Deni Avdija (groin injury) in the training room.

Kispert took 62% of his shots from beyond the arc last season and hit 35% of them, both solid numbers but ones Wizards hoped would improve for the 6’6″ wing this season.

Scoot Henderson says he has skills to be No.1 pick but not hung up on it

Metropolitans 92 v G League Ignite
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Scoot Henderson came out like a man on a mission Tuesday night against the Metropolitans 92 and Victor Wembanyama — he was in attack mode. He used his explosive athleticism to get to the rim, his impressive body control to get off good shots, and his strength to finish with authority. And if the defender played back, he would drain the jumper over him.

A year ago, Jaylen Brown called him the best 17-year-old he’d ever seen. Scoot is better than that now.

Many years, Henderson would be a clear No.1 overall pick. But, not this year, Wembanyama has that crown because he breaks the mold with his size and skill set (in the NBA, height still wins out).

Kevin O’Conner of The Ringer asked Henderson why he should be the top prospect and got a confident answer.

There will be a lot of people making the Henderson case this season — and with good reason. He could be a franchise cornerstone player for the next decade.

Henderson, however, is trying not to get hung up on No.1 vs. No.2.

There’s a long list of legendary players selected No.2: Bill Russell, Kevin Durant, Jerry West, Jason Kidd, and that is just the tip of the iceberg. Henderson can be one of them.

Unless Wembanyama’s medicals come back with red flags, he is destined to be the No.1 pick next June. That, however, will not be the end of Henderson’s story. Instead, it will be just the beginning.

Doc Rivers says he wants Harden to be ‘a scoring Magic Johnson’

Philadelphia 76ers Media Day
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We’re not in Houston anymore.

James Harden in Philadelphia will not be chasing scoring titles and dominating the game in quite the same way. Instead, he’s been asked to be more of a facilitator — but not too much of one. Doc Rivers told the team at ESPN’s NBA Today he wants scoring to go with the facilitating. Just like one of the all-time greats.

“I think we’ve talked so much about him being a facilitator… I need him to be James Harden too. If I had to combine, I would say a scoring Magic Johnson, I don’t know, but that’s what I want him to be. I want him to be a James Harden, but in that, I want him to also be the facilitator of this basketball team too. So in a lot of ways, his role is growing bigger for our team, and I just want him to keep thinking, ‘Do both.'”

Just play like Magic, no pressure there. For his career, Magic averaged 19.5 points a game (with four over 20 PPG) with 11.2 assists.

Harden can get close enough to Rivers’ lofty goals to make Philly a real threat, so long as defenders still fear his first step and step back. Harden can get his shot and get to the line, and he’s long been a great passer who has averaged 10.5 assists a game over the past two seasons. Now it’s just a matter of finding the balance of when to set up Joel Embiid, when to turn the offense over to Tyrese Maxey, and when to get his own shot.

Philadelphia is a deep team poised to win a lot of regular season games — the Sixers being the top seed in the East is absolutely in play. The questions Harden — and, to a degree, Embiid — have to answer come in May, when the second round of the playoffs start and Harden has faded while Embiid has had poor injury luck. In a deep East with Milwaukee, Boston, and maybe Miami and Brooklyn in the contender mix, there is no margin for error.

A Magic-like Harden would be a big boost for the Sixers in that setting.