On Wednesday, Ime Udoka was introduced as the new coach of the Houston Rockets. It’s been almost a year since he led the Boston Celtics to the NBA Finals, and his suspension and subsequent dismissal from the Celtics without any explanation still feels weird.
Udoka apologized to everyone he hurt and then disappeared. He worked on himself and improved by taking leadership and sensitivity training, counseling, and reflecting. The Rockets hired him after due diligence, and the NBA officials were comfortable with Udoka becoming the coach of the Houston Rockets.
Although his transgressions may have been enough to get him booted from Boston, across the league, it wasn’t considered a basketball death sentence. In Houston, Udoka’s challenge is sizable. The team won 22 games last season, and although there is talent, the team is undisciplined. Udoka has a challenge and intends to coach the team hard and the right way.
“My style, personally, is very upfront, honest and blunt to an extent,” said Udoka. He said he loved Houston’s youth and potential “but now we have to take the next steps.” In Boston, Udoka regularly—and very publicly—called players out on mistakes. On Wednesday, Udoka suggested he didn’t expect that to change.
“I think the players respect that honesty, straightforwardness,” Udoka said. “I’m a very relatable guy to the players and that’s [why] I try to build those relationships. They know I’m going to coach them hard and coach them the right way. And I think a lot of these guys respect that.”
He plans to take the next steps and not allow the players to make excuses because of their youth. The Rockets could have $60 million in cap space when free agency begins this summer, giving them the capital to add veterans to the young core.
“One of my first messages [will] be ‘youth is not an excuse,’” said Udoka. “Across the board I think whether it’s making the same mistakes, not making the right defensive assignments, poor shot selection, all that stuff has to be addressed but also improved on. Understanding that we’re going to take some lumps with our age and our youth, but my message to them would be that’s not an excuse. You’ve been in the league, you’ve been taught and that’s my job to teach them and expedite that process.”
Speaking of that young core, Yahoo Sports’ Jake L. Fischer, The Rockets have “addressed the idea” of trading Jalen Green. The team potential targets for the Rockets could be James Harden and Khris Middleton.
Someone else to lookout for that could join the Rockets is Jaylen Brown, who is a unrestricted free agent in the summer of 2024. So, the only way that the Rockets could acquire Brown is via trade, but it is a possibility because of Brown’s relationship with former head coach Ime Udoka, an NBA source recently shared with LandonBuford.com.
“I didn’t know how to feel. I was a little bit shocked, to be honest,” Brown shared. “It was not the vibe; you know what I mean? That’s the way I always describe it. It was not good vibes.”
“So, whether you stood on this side or this side, they was going to find wrong from a coach that I advocated to bring here to Boston. I wanted to see him back on his feet here, no matter what it was. I don’t think that’s the wrong thing to feel.”
However, if the Rockets could pull that off and land the second pick in this year’s draft and James Harden opts out in Philly. Giving the Rockets the opportunity to draft Scoot Henderson, they could have a potential starting lineup of Scoot Henderson, James Harden, Jaylen Brown, Jabari Smith Jr, and Alperen Şengün.