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Celtics Reportedly ‘Never Got Over’ Handling Of Ime Udoka Departure

With the Boston Celtics looking like a fractured team with their season on the brink of coming to a crushing end to the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference finals, everyone is trying to figure out where it all went wrong.

ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski believes the Celtics started to show cracks before the season started due to the way the organization handled the Ime Udoka scandal. The Celtics issued Udoka a season-long suspension just prior to the start of training camp due to violations of team policy that included an improper workplace relationship.

Wojnarowski went on “NBA Countdown” on Monday night and reported that players on the Celtics had a tough time coming to grips with the way their former head coach lost his job.

“This team, this locker room, they never got over Ime Udoka’s dismissal as head coach,” Wojnarowski said as transcribed by MassLive’s Souichi Terada. “These players did not accept the organization’s reasoning for doing it. They thought it was a wild overreaction. There were a lot of people on the outside who thought it was an overreaction, it was an HR matter.”

Following an embarrassing Game 3 loss to the Heat on Sunday, Celtics head coach Joe Mazzulla confessed there is a disconnect between him and the players on the team.

After suspending Udoka, the Celtics elevated the inexperienced Mazzulla to interim head coach before shedding that label just prior to the All-Star break. That freed Udoka, who was a candidate to take the Brooklyn Nets head-coaching job after they parted ways with Steve Nash early in the season, up to search for his next coaching gig and he was hired by the Houston Rockets in late April.

“I think with this team, and talking with management, they never got the answers, they never got anymore answers than the public was getting on this.” Wojnarowski said, per Terada. “That doesn’t mean they haven’t accepted Joe Mazzulla as head coach. But this is a team that really believed in Ime Udoka, had a strong connection with him. I think there were a couple instances this season where a lot of that angst resurfaced. First, when the Brooklyn Nets nearly hired Udoka as head coach and then when the Rockets did.”

Mazzulla, who is the youngest coach in the NBA this season, has faced countless second-guesses throughout Boston’s current playoff run. Even Marcus Smart thought the critiques of the coach were justified.

The report from Wojnarowski only heightens the swell of outside noise surrounding the Celtics as they received a bevy of criticism for their no-show effort in Game 3.

All of this comes with the Celtics’ season on life support as the Heat hold a commanding 3-0 series lead with a trip to the NBA Finals at stake. And the news from Wojnarowski might just be the start of it depending how the Celtics respond in Game 4 on Tuesday night.

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