Celtics: Investigation of Udoka found multiple violations of team policy

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The suspension of Ime Udoka by the Celtics for the 2022-23 NBA season came after an investigation by an outside law firm found he had a “volume of violations” of team policy, Celtics co-owner Wyc Grousbeck said on Friday, adding he stood by the punishment (which some saw as too severe).

And no, Brad Stevens is not coming back to the bench.

Those were two of the big takeaways from Grousbeck and team president Brad Stevens press conference on Friday. While the pair avoided discussing details of the allegations against Udoka — who had an improper intimate relationship with a Celtics staff member — some things have become clear.

Here are the key takeaways from the press conference and reporting since the announcement.

• The Celtics spent months investigating this situation and hired an outside law firm to do so, Grousbeck said. That investigation ended Wednesday and found a “volume of violations” of the team code of conduct, which led to the team’s suspension of Udoka. Subsequent reporting by Shams Charania of The Athletic found the “woman recently accused Udoka of making unwanted comments toward her.” Sources told NBC Sports that a serious power dynamic was involved in the situation and it was much messier than the early reporting on this suggested.

• Celtics players were “very concerned about this” and Grousbeck spoke to them about the situation.

Stevens was moved almost to tears over the random and rampant speculation on Twitter about who the woman involved with Udoka was (some Celtics fans were speculating and posting pictures of staffers on social media, unfairly dragging them into this nightmare).

“We have a lot of talented women in our organization. I thought yesterday was really hard on them,” Stevens said. “Nobody can control Twitter speculation, rampant bulls*** but I do think that we as an organization have a responsibility to make sure we’re there to support them now. Because a lot of people were dragged unfairly into that.”

• There is a “significant” financial component to Udoka’s suspension, Grousbeck said.

• The duo confirmed reports that assistant coach Joe Mazzula would take over as the interim head coach.

• Grousbeck added he asked Stevens about a possible return to the bench, but “Joe’s the best choice to do that by a long shot,” Stevens said.

• Mazzulla was arrested on a domestic battery charge in 2009 in Morgantown, West Virginia, where he allegedly grabbed a woman by the neck. Steven said that they vetted the situation before hiring Mazzulla and that he takes full responsibility for the incident.

“[I feel] strongly that that probably shaped him into who he is today in a really, really good way. He’ll be the first to tell you he’s 100% accountable for that,” Stevens said.

• Because of the now smaller and less experienced coaching staff, it is possible a veteran coach is added to the staff, Stevens said, but there has been no conversation along those lines yet.

• Both Stevens and Grousbeck said that a decision about what happens beyond this season — with Udoka and the coaching position — has not been made. The Celtics are going to take their time with this.

• This quote from Grousbeck summed up the overall theme of the press conference: “We think our culture is very strong. We’re very proud of it. But this has shaken it. I don’t think there is a wider issue than what we’ve spent several months uncovering.”

Pelican’s Green says Zion ‘dominated the scrimmage pretty much’

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The Zion hype train keeps right on rolling. First were the reports he was in the best shape of his life, then he walked into media day and it looked like he is.

Now Zion has his own hype man in Pelicans coach Willie Green, who said he dominated the first day of team scrimmages. Via Andre Lopez of ESPN.

“Z looked amazing,” Pelicans coach Willie Green said on Wednesday afternoon. “His strength, his speed. He dominated the scrimmage pretty much.”

“What stood out was his force more than anything,” Green said. “He got down the floor quickly. When he caught the ball, he made quick decisions. Whether it was scoring, finding a teammate. It was really impressive to see.”

Reach for the salt shaker to take all this with — it’s training camp scrimmages. Maybe Zion is playing that well right now — he’s fully capable, he was almost an All-NBA player in 2020-21 (eighth in forward voting) before his foot injury — but we need to see it against other teams. In games that matter. Then we’ll need to see it over a stretch of time.

If Zion can stay healthy this season, if his conditioning is where everyone says it is, he could be in for a monster season. Combine that with CJ McCollum, Brandon Ingram and a strong supporting cast in New Orleans, and the Pelicans could surprise a lot of people — and be fun to watch.

 

PBT Podcast: What’s next for Celtics, Suns? Should NBA end one-and-done?

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NBA training camps just opened and teams have yet to play a preseason game, but already two contenders are dealing with problems.

The Celtics have the suspension of coach Ime Udoka as a distraction, plus defensive anchor center Robert Williams will miss at least the start of the season following another knee surgery.

The Suns have the distraction of a suspended owner who is selling the team, plus Jae Crowder is out and demanding a trade, and Deandre Ayton does not seem happy.

Corey Robinson of NBC Sports and myself go through all the training camp news, including the wilder ones with the Lakers and Nets, breaking down what to take away from all that — plus how good Zion Williamson and James Harden look physically.

Then the pair discusses the potential of the NBA doing away with the one-and-done role and letting 18-year-olds back in the game — is that good for the NBA?

You can always watch the video of some of the podcast above, or listen to the entire podcast below, listen and subscribe via iTunes at ApplePodcasts.com/PBTonNBC, subscribe via the fantastic Stitcher app, check us out on Google Play, or anywhere else you get your podcasts.

We want your questions for future podcasts, and your comments, so please feel free to email us at PBTpodcast@gmail.com.

Report: Price tag on Phoenix Suns could be more than $3 billion

Phoenix Suns v Los Angeles Clippers - Game Six
Harry How/Getty Images
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In 2004, Robert Sarver bought the Phoenix Suns for a then-record $401 million.

When Sarver sells the team now — pushed to do so following the backlash prompted by an NBA report that found an 18-year pattern of bigotry, misogyny, and a toxic workplace — he is going to make a massive profit.

The value of the Suns now is at $3 billion or higher, reports Ramona Shelburne and Baxter Holmes of ESPN.

There will be no shortage of bidders for the team, with league sources predicting a franchise valuation of more than $3 billion now that revenue has rebounded following the height of the COVID-19 pandemic and with a new television rights deal and CBA on the horizon. Sarver purchased the team for just over $400 million in 2004.

Saver currently owns 35% of the Suns (the largest share), but reports say his role as managing partner allows him to sell the entire team (the minority owners have to comply, although they would make a healthy profit, too). Sarver also decides who to sell the team to, not the NBA or other owners.

Early rumors of buyers have included Larry Ellison (founder of Oracle), Bob Iger (former Disney CEO), Laurene Powell Jobs (widow of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, she has a 20% share of the Washington Wizards), and others. There have been no reports of talks yet, and Sarver does not need to be on a rushed timeline.

Meanwhile, a contending Suns team tries to focus on the season despite the owner selling the team, Jae Crowder not being in training camp and pushing for a trade, and Deandre Ayton does not sound happy to be back with the Suns.

Steve Nash on his relationship with Kevin Durant: ‘We’re good’

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In an effort to gain leverage for a trade this offseason, Kevin Durant threw down a “either the coach and GM are gone or I am” ultimatum.

Now coach Steve Nash (and GM Sean Marks) are back in Brooklyn, on the same team and trying to build a contender together. Awkward? Not if you ask Nash, which is what Nick Friedell of ESPN did.

“We’re fine,” Nash said after the Nets’ first official practice of the season on Tuesday. “We’re good. Ever since we talked, it’s been like nothing’s changed. I have a long history with Kevin. I love the guy. Families have issues. We had a moment and it’s behind us. That’s what happens. It’s a common situation in the league.

“We all were hurting, seething, to go through what we went through last year, not being able to overcome all that adversity. Sometimes you lose perspective because you expect to win, but the reality is we were able to talk and discuss what we can improve on from last year. And also keep perspective. We went through a ton of stuff.”

First off, what else was Nash going to say? He knows the power dynamic in the NBA, and Durant has far more leverage than he does — not enough to get Nash fired this summer, but still more than the coach.

Second, Nash could be telling the truth from his perspective. NBA players and coaches understand better than anyone this is a business and things are rarely personal. Grudges are not held like fans think they are (most of the time). Nash saw Durant’s move for what it was — an effort to create pressure — and can intellectually shrug it off, reach out to KD and talk about the future.

What this brings into question was one of the Nets’ biggest issues last season — mental toughness and togetherness. Do the Nets have the will to fight through adversity and win as a team? Individually Durant, Kyrie Irving, Nash and others have shown that toughness in the past, but as a team it was not that hard to break the will of the Nets last season. Are their relationships strong enough, is their will strong enough this season?

It feels like we will find out early. If the wheels come off the Nets’ season, it feels like it will happen early and by Christmas things could be a full-on dumpster fire. Or maybe Nash is right and they are stronger than we think.