Let’s start with this obvious point: It’s early. Things can change. Crisis often leads to growth.
But is it possible that new Celtics coach Ime Udoka is in over his head?
The Celtics are a sh**show, folks. But we can’t use that term. So for the sake of propriety, let’s call it a fecal festival. Now the possessors of a 2-5 record, the Celtics blew a 19-point, third-quarter lead last night and spiraled to a 128-114 defeat in which they looked clueless, demoralized, desperate. Boston was outscored in the final quarter, 39-11, and outrebounded, 16-3. The Bulls shot 13-of-16 in the final 12 minutes. Of the three misses, the Celtics rebounded none of them.
You read that correctly.
The Celtics had zero defensive rebounds in the fourth quarter.
And that’s not even the worst part.
After the game, Celtics guard Marcus Smart launched a series of missives that served as an indictment of his coach, Udoka, as well as teammates Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum. The Celtics certainly seem to be fractured, which is again a nicer way of saying they’re a mess.
“Every team knows we’re trying to go to Jayson and Jaylen,” Smart said. “Every team is programmed and [has] studied to stop Jayson and Jaylen. I think everybody’s scouting report is to make those guys pass the ball. They don’t want to pass the ball.”
Added Smart: “[There’s] only so much I can do without the ball in my hands sitting in the corner. We’re running plays for our best players. Every team knows that. They do a good job of shutting that down. We can’t allow that. We can’t keep trying to go to those guys. We’ve got to abort that, find another way to get them the ball in spots that they need the ball. For me, I can only do so much just sitting in the corner or when I come up and give the ball away.”
Oh, Smart also referred to himself as a “great passer.”
Look, it’s easy to pick on Smart, who’s undoubtedly part of the problem. He’s also at least partly right. The Celtics turned to Udoka this year in part because Brad Stevens seemingly lost the ears of Smart, Tatum and Brown. But just seven games into the season, Udoka already has had to discipline Smart for missing a team flight. And on the floor, the Celtics look undisciplined, unstructured, mentally weak and downright soft.
Meanwhile, Brown has been inconsistent and Tatum is still whining about the officiating.
In retrospect, would someone like Chauncey Billups have been a better choice than Udoka? Do the Celtics need a more experienced coach? Is it time to break up the trio of Tatum, Brown and Smart, something many angled for at the end of last season?
At the moment, everything is in play.
One final thing: let’s not put this all on Udoka, who has clearly walked into a bad situation that obviously preceded him. Celtics ownership and management chose a path last offseason that currently looks like a disaster. Most teams have a renewed focus when a new coach walks in the door. The Celtics have seemingly done the opposite.
They’ve gotten worse.