The dysfunctional Brooklyn Nets did Steve Nash a favor Tuesday by relieving him of his coaching duties. Nash’s departure immediately drew speculation on who would replace him, with Boston Celtics suspended coach Ime Udoka emerging as the favorite.
Nash’s firing came a day after Brooklyn defeated the Indiana Pacers for its second win of the season. The victory halted a four-game losing skid. The Nets are an absolute mess. Bringing Udoka into the mix only adds to it, at least for the time being.
Boston Celtics coach Ime Udoka is the frontrunner to land the Brooklyn Nets job
It’s fitting that a franchise that has no idea which direction it’s going in has an interest in a coach who’s suspended for a season. The talented Nets can’t get out of their own way, and Udoka can’t get back on the bench until the 2023-24 season after the Celtics suspended him for the year. The addition of Udoka would only add to the Brooklyn circus, with questions about his suspension popping up and taking center stage.
The Celtics issued the suspension right before training camp after Udoka violated team policies. Boston replaced Udoka with rookie head coach Joe Mazzulla, an assistant under Udoka last season.
On Tuesday, ESPN reported that Udoka has emerged as the favorite to replace Nash and “his hiring could be finalized as soon as the next 24 to 48 hours.”
After this year, Udoka is under contract with the Celtics for the next two seasons. The Nets would need the Celtics to let Udoka, a former assistant in Brooklyn, walk away from his contract. Sources told ESPN that the Celtics would allow that to happen.
The Nets hired Nash in 2020 as a first-time head coach. He inherited a talented team that has grossly underachieved by winning one playoff series in two years. Kyrie Irving has been nothing but a distraction to the Nets, while Kevin Durant publicly asked to be traded during the summer before reconsidering. Former No. 1 pick Ben Simmons is also on board after sitting out all of last year. He’s averaging 6.2 points in just over 31 minutes.
The Celtics should seek compensation from the Nets
Maybe the Celtics just want to be done with the whole Udoka situation. It’s tough to see him ever coaching again in Boston. Letting him go and not paying him any longer might be enough for the Celtics just to let him walk for nothing, but they should explore compensation.
In his first year as head coach with the Celtics, Udoka guided the team to the NBA Finals. It took four years for Doc Rivers to do that, and Boston got a first-round pick for him when he left for the LA Clippers. Udoka would be headed to a division rival, and the C’s should certainly get some sort of draft capital in return.
While Udoka shined in Boston, he struggled out of the gates. Through 50 games, the Celtics went 25-25. Several times during the early part of the season, Udoka questioned his team’s effort.
The Celtics were a young team led by Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. They bought in when Udoka stressed defense. That helped Boston close the regular season with a 26-6 record and the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference.
Is Udoka or anyone else capable of motivating Irving and Durant? If Irving, Durant, and Simmons get on the same page and buy in, Udoka might just be able to change the culture in Brooklyn. That, folks, isn’t going to happen.
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