NBA rumors: No growing rift between Marcus Smart and Ime Udoka

There’s no growing rift between Smart and Udoka. Smart said the rookie coach has done a great job. Smart said he believes Udoka has faith in him. Smart trusts the coach will act in the best interest of both Smart and the team. “So you tip your hat off to him for everything that he’s doing in his first year with all the BS around with this team not winning and stuff like that,” Smart said. “Being in Boston and coaching for Boston, it’s not easy, especially for your first year. So we just have to continue to help him. I’ve gotta continue to help him. I’ve been here the longest. I know the guys more than he does. And I’ve gotta be that quarterback out there for him.”

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“My whole life I’ve been doubted. And I’m here. And I’m still around. And that’s just kind of how it’s been for me. I always bet on myself. And I love this team, this organization. I know we’re not perfect. And that’s part of this whole NBA thing. Everybody’s out there trying to do what’s best for their organization and their team. And it might not be perfect at the time, but you do what you can with what you’ve got and you can control.”
Just know this: Regardless of what anyone else thinks, Smart believes he’s fully capable of running the show in Boston. He wants to make it work no matter what it means for him individually. He thinks he can make life easier for Tatum and Brown and finds it comical that such skepticism exists about whether he can handle the task. “First coming out of college, I was a point guard,” Smart said late Friday morning before falling to the Hawks, 108-92. “It’s what I played. So it’s kind of funny to hear people say I’m not a point guard. In high school, point guard, led my team to two state championships. It’s funny hearing people say I’m not a point guard.”
Celtics team and player sources have told The Athletic regularly throughout the season that there haven’t been any significant clashes behind closed doors. Rob Williams mentioned after last week’s home win against Indiana that the team had arguments throughout the game, but player sources said those have been just the usual heat of the moment conversations, without any lasting tension.
Jaylen Brown and Grant Williams have been the most vocal players this year, with Brown trying to often push the team to play with pace and Williams trying to fill the young energy role player slot. But Celtics sources in the locker room said Brown’s defensive inconsistencies and Williams’ youth will often lead to rallying cries being tuned out.
“Good, solid point guards are difficult to come by. They had one in Kyrie [Irving], but he was a head case. They potentially had one in Kemba [Walker], although Kemba was a shooting guard more than a point guard. You need a penetrating point guard at that point who is a threat and then he passes off to the Tatums and the Browns. “I love Marcus Smart, but I don’t love him as a point guard. He thinks he’s the best point guard; he’s not but he’s still a positive factor.
After the Boston Celtics blew their latest lead of the season in a heartbreaking 108-105 defeat at the hands of the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden, coach Ime Udoka repeatedly called out his team for a lack of mental toughness. "I think it's a lack of mental toughness to fight through those adverse times," Udoka said after Knicks forward RJ Barrett's banked-in 3-pointer at the buzzer completed a 25-point Knicks comeback to stun the Celtics. "To your point, it's across the board. It's a turnover here, a bad shot here, a missed defensive assignment here, and several missed rebounds tonight.
"It's guys getting rattled when it's not the end of the world," Udoka said. "You still have a 12-point, comfortable lead, and you gotta end that run. "We have to understand time and score, and we need a solid shot and not just get caught up in the game. You have to play the game different in the first quarter than the fourth quarter. Different when the team is going on the run, and when you're getting stops and getting out running. "It's not open gym. You can't just play the same way the whole game. So we have to have better understanding of that, and get the quality of shot that we want to stop a run and not just get caught up in it and four, five guys make the wrong play and it starts to snowball."
Keith Smith: Al Horford on who needs to fix things for Boston: "It comes from all of us. You know, Coach does what he has to do. But at the end of the day, it has to come from each individual player. We need to be accountable and held accountable. Individually, we need to look in the mirror."
Keith Smith: Jaylen Brown was asked about Al Horford's comment that the team is "searching" and "has to look in the mirror". Brown said: "Searching and looking in the mirror? Nah. No comment."
Jared Weiss: Jaylen Brown: "We’re missing a lot of guys and you can tell chemistry-wise. It just was out of sync. A lot of those turnovers came from miscommunications. A lot of those defensive lapses came from miscommunications. That’s just what it comes down to is chemistry."
Even Tatum’s efficiency has dipped. Udoka has pushed Tatum to sharpen his competitive edge.He has warned Tatum that sometimes he treats opponents with too much respect. He has reminded Tatum of the things he said to Kawhi Leonard, when Leonard was a young player in San Antonio. Tatum, says Udoka, has a habit of “respecting guys too much at times.” His message to Tatum: “These guys aren’t your older brother. Don’t treat them like that.”
"I would put it simply: Jayson and Jaylen's ability to make other players better [is crucial]," a Western Conference scout said, when asked for what the key will be for Boston to return to championship contention. "If they can't get that third guy, they have to make other players better, and they haven't shown the ability to do that yet."
"The Celtics the last couple years have had a few really good players," another executive said, "and too many roster spots dedicated to players they drafted who aren't good enough."
In the wake of Marcus Smart’s critical comments about Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum’s passing on Monday night, Stevens told Toucher and Rich on 98.5 The Sports Hub that he preferred those comments came in a direct conversation between the players involved. “I think any time you have things to say, you say it to the person or people,” Stevens said Thursday morning. Whether they’re right wrong or whatever, you say it directly to the person. I think it’s important — you have to be willing to have difficult conversations and put your name on it. The validity of the comments aren’t as important as, we have to be able to sit face-to-face and say, ‘OK, we all want to win. How do we find solutions because we were sitting at 2-5 on Monday?’”
While Stevens was happy that the complaint from Smart didn’t come via an anonymous source, he admitted that he preferred Smart’s comments were kept behind closed doors, rather than in a postgame press conference. “I think that’s the way it should be,” Stevens said. “That’s why Jaylen’s comments were really good. I think the frustration of the night is real, and that’s why comments happen. “Was it ideal? No. Was it the right thing at the right time? Probably not. But at the end of the day, it’s how you respond. You got to sit with those guys. You gotta go out face-to-face with those guys.”
After Smart spoke following the disastrous loss to the Bulls, Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown did not speak to the media and the team went silent for a few days as they made their way down to Florida. After the game against the Magic, Jaylen Brown finally spoke. “Obviously in the midst of trying to win games, it’s something that we probably didn’t need,” Brown said of Smart’s public critique. “But we all communicate and talk to each other. So we’re always trying to find ways to win and I’m open to any and everything when guys bring it to me, coaching staff. I’m always watching film, trying to better myself and be a better basketball player and find ways to make my teammates better. So it felt good to get a win today.”
Udoka addressed the report after the game and explained the meeting was less an ad-hoc airing of grievances, but rather the usual road event sequence of events. “Yeah, it wasn’t really a players-only meeting,” Udoka said. “We had a team dinner scheduled way before anything happened, so that was planned for some weeks now. And we gave the players their time before the coaching staff and everybody else came down. So they had about 30 minutes on their own, but it wasn’t anything scheduled. It wasn’t anything scheduled by them.”
So even if the wider public response made it out to be some shot across the bow, it seemed to resolve itself as well as you could expect for a public call-out. “Team meeting, just an opportunity to talk as a group, get some communication going in, and move forward,” said Brown. “At the end of the day, we’ve been playing basketball together for a long time, all of us, especially our core group. So when it comes down to it, it’s all about trying to find ways to win, and that’s what the conversation was about.”
Mark Murphy: Frustration aside, Brown doesn't want his teammates to chill: "Definitely not relax. There's definitely an urgency. We have to have a sense of urgency. You don't want to start the season in a hole and try to dig ourselves out of it. We have an urgency to try and get back."
And it’s believed their issues have been ongoing and were a challenge former coach Brad Stevens faced during his tenure. “Marcus Smart, Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, they did talk about the collapse against the Bulls and Marcus Smart’s comments after the game about those two not passing the ball,” Wojnarowski said. “It was emotional at times but in the end perhaps not a terribly productive meeting, maybe not even beneficial. “These are issues with this team and group that have been going on for a while... Ime Udoka, the first-year Boston head coach, this is a situation that he has to address and help this team work through. “The way Brad Stevens, it haunted his regime, especially near the end of last season.”
Brown said after Wednesday's game that Smart's comments weren't necessarily helpful. "Obviously in the midst of trying to win games, it's something that we probably didn't need," Brown said. "But we all communicate and talk to each other. So we're always trying to find ways to win and I'm open to any and everything when guys bring it to me, coaching staff. I'm always watching film trying to better myself and be a better basketball player and find ways to make my teammates better. So it felt good to get a win today."
The former Celtics’ big man and current ESPN analyst Kendrick Perkins seemed visibly outraged with Smart’s statements, saying he should have consulted his head coach rather than talking about it to the media. “Marcus can’t come out publicly and say that. Like, you cannot call your guys out on national television, that is a locker room code.
Chris Grenham: Marcus Smart: "I would just like to play basketball. Every team knows we're trying to go to Jayson and Jaylen. Every team is programmed and 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. That's something that they're going to learn. They're still learning. We're proud of the progress they're making, but they're going to have to make another step and find ways to not only create for themselves but create for others on this team to open up the court for them "¡later down in the game where they're always going to have to take those tough shots or take tough matchups when they do get the 1-on-1 or they bring the trap. It's something we've been asking them to do and they're learning. We just gotta continue to help those guys do that "to help our team."
“There’s only so much I can do without the ball in my hands, I’m just standing in the corner,” Smart said. “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. When they shut that down, we can’t keep trying to go to those guys. “I do everything I can on the other end to try to combat that. I try to talk, I try to make plays, get those guys the ball where they need it, where they want it.”
According to a source, Brooklyn’s Blake Griffin asked a Celtics player if he should join the team midseason and was told not to come to Boston because of the apparent dysfunction. At season’s end, multiple sources close to the players said several members of the locker room were welcoming a coaching change, noting Stevens did not appear to hold key players accountable, with complaints he was favoring Smart over others.
That chemistry was strained not just by health, COVID protocols, and public pressure, but the way the Celtics were discussed by team leadership, according to multiple sources familiar with players’ thinking. There were several inflection points where the roster might not have felt supported, particularly after Ainge and team governor Wyc Grousbeck gave a series of interviews ahead of the trade deadline with their assessments that the team was not competitive.
“I’ve done a little complaining in private and I feel a little frustrated. We’re not contenders,” Grousbeck said on The Sports Hub in late February. “You can’t say you’re a contender if you’re below .500 a third of the way into the season. And so we’re not. I hope the second third, or whatever, is better than the first, third. We’ve got some work to do.” Though the commentary may have been fair, sources suggest it may have contributed to the lackluster spirit that was watching this team throughout the year. The head coach is generally responsible for the team’s energy and execution, but they are not alone in impacting those factors. Ainge and Grousbeck were committed to Stevens as their coach and his emphasis on process-oriented growth. His recent extension means he has one of the longest coaching contracts in the league, but the growth process has to eventually lead toward a title in Boston.
Jay King: I personally love Kevin O'Connor. One of the best people in sports writing. Tristan Thompson may feel differently "I'm not going to let some guy with Twitter fingers try to bring down what I've built. So good attempt Mr. O'Connor but I'm Teflon steel. You can't bring me down."
Chris Forsberg: Danny Ainge on @Toucherandrich: “I’m putting it on my players’ shoulders right now.” Says while everyone in organization deserves blame, he wants his players to fight through adversity better and play with more consistent effort. Ainge heavy with support for Brad Stevens.
Chris Forsberg: Danny Ainge on @Toucherandrich when asked how much blame Brad Stevens deserves for team’s inconsistent ways. "Everybody is responsible. I'm responsible, Brad's responsible ... Brad has zero responsibility for us shooting 5 for 34 from 3 last night, most of them being open shots. He doesn't have responsibility when players improvise and are playing with lack of emotion after they miss shots. The only thing that he could do is yank his best players out of the game and go with the other players. That, the only option that he has. I think this is not everybody on the team, this is the not the same player every single night, it's different players each night..."
Danny Ainge: "When you have success, it, everybody's success and when you have failures, it's everybody, failures. I think we're trying to identity how to get the team to best perform and, without anything else, we really do need to get healthy. We have different players out every night and there, not a lot of time to practice and it really is difficult to sustain continuity. Having said all that, effort should be the one thing that is consistent."
Keith Smith: Reporter to Brad Stevens: "What are you most satisfied with?" Stevens: "Uhhhhhh...." Reporter: "If anything?" Stevens: "If anything? Yeah. If anything. There isn't anything."
John Karalis: Stevens: "It's not time to dream about the future, it's time to do it now. We need to play better. We need to show up and compete. And every night, with great urgency, all the way through the game regardless of what just happened."
Keith Smith: Jaylen Brown doesn't want to place blame on any one person or any facet of the game, but he's clearly frustrated: "I don't know what you guys want me to say, to be honest."
Amid those talks of rumored team chemistry issues in the Celtics locker room, head coach Brad Stevens took to his weekly appearance on Zolak & Bertrand of 98.5 The Sports Hub to refute those rumors and help ease the mind of Celtics fans. “Last week, I was going to Indiana, according to everybody, right? So, rumors sometimes are right, and sometimes are wrong. I'd say one of the things I've learned in this is about 90% of what I hear, and or read, I would like to have a second look at and maybe a fifth look at and a tenth look at and actually talk to somebody in there before I react to it.”
When asked about Brown's tweet, Stevens, who seemed to be clueless on the matter, told Zolak and Bertrand, "Good for Jaylen. I agree with Jaylen." “So yeah, that stuff, I don't know where that came from, or whatever the case may be. But Tristan has been a good teammate, a good guy, like, all that stuff. So, it's disappointing to hear something like that would be out there.”

http://twitter.com/FCHWPO/status/1374484846995677184
He discussed what he saw and heard from outside the Celtics’ locker room as he broke news about the fight between Marcus Smart and Jaylen Brown that led to chaos after Game 2 between the Celtics and Heat. Washburn considered it the most chaotic post-game he’d ever seen, with yelling and items throw, eventually spilling out of the room. “Multiple voices, loud, sounded like Brad. It was not just Marcus,” Washburn said. “(Smart) walked out of the room to the bathroom, and that’s when he made his famous statement, ‘y’all on some bullshit’ … yelling continues, for 20+ minutes.”
But when the Boston Celtics’ Marcus Smart was at the center of that raucous locker room scene after Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals, when the shouting from both Smart and others could be heard all throughout the hallway and we later learned from The Athletic’s Shams Charania that a clash with Jaylen Brown had taken place following their second consecutive loss to Miami, Smart had more on his mind than blown leads and the routine rigors of the bubble experience. As the 26-year-old Smart discussed with The Athletic after practice on Monday, he was already “tipping over” emotionally heading into the game for a very painful and personal reason: The two-year anniversary of his mother’s passing had taken place the day before.
I’m coming from the standpoint of understanding, not making excuses. Marcus Smart: Yeah, exactly. And that’s the thing. And it’s tough because only the people who are in that locker room really understand and know what everybody is going through. So like I said, I don’t want to use it as an excuse but it definitely played a role to a certain extent. It’s definitely an emotional day. You’re already on an emotional scale where you’re already tipping over, and then something like (that happens) where you should’ve won for the second time against a really good team that you allowed to come back and steal both games from you. It just pushed it over the edge.
Marcus Smart: It was just — we were all disappointed. It was just disappointing. We lost two games that we should have won, and nobody was happy. I probably would have felt in trouble with the team as a team — like, we would’ve felt in trouble — if everybody was calm. After a Game 2 loss, up 17, up 14, two games and we lost it. We’re a great team and we’re playing against a great team, so we know we can’t have those types of meltdowns. So yeah, we were all disappointed. And when you’ve got a bunch of brothers who are disappointed, emotions fly and sometimes you’ve got to yell just to get it out and move on. It was one of those nights (laughs).
Did you wonder (if that would happen) when you went to bed that night, after you guys had those conversations back at the hotel? And who all took part in those talks? Marcus Smart: Yeah, you know we just got together and made sure that we were on the same page. We told each other that we love each other. It was me, Jaylen, Jayson, Kemba, and (coach) Brad Stevens. You know, we just got together and made sure that what happened in the locker room was really in the locker room. It’s unfortunate that it got out, but it happened. Like I said, we’re a family. Families fight. I don’t expect anything less. I expect that if a guy feels some way, then say it. I’d rather you say it than hold it in and let it come out too late.
Marcus Smart: No, I don’t have any regrets. And I don’t have any regrets with how my teammates handled it either. I think we handled it perfectly. If you can’t talk, if you can’t yell, if you can’t express how you truly feel with somebody who’s supposed to have your back, somebody who you’re supposed to trust, and vice versa, then are you really supposed to be trusting that person? That’s the type of team we are.
But the idea that you take that sort of a moment as a team and go to a higher place rather than going the wrong direction speaks well of all you guys, right? Marcus Smart: Yeah, and that’s why I said that we’ve grown with this experience. We’ve grown. We’ve matured. It would have been easy, and would have been understandable in some ways after that, for us to fall apart. Did you wonder (if that would happen) when you went to bed that night, after you guys had those conversations back at the hotel? And who all took part in those talks? Marcus Smart: Yeah, you know we just got together and made sure that we were on the same page. We told each other that we love each other.
It was me, Jaylen, Jayson, Kemba, and (coach) Brad Stevens. You know, we just got together and made sure that what happened in the locker room was really in the locker room. It’s unfortunate that it got out, but it happened. Like I said, we’re a family. Families fight. I don’t expect anything less. I expect that if a guy feels some way, then say it. I’d rather you say it than hold it in and let it come out too late. Like I said, it was electrifying for us to have it. It was something that probably we should have had a long time ago, but because we kind of just skated through we didn’t have to. And we knew eventually it was going to come up to bite us with the way we’d been playing, so it was something that needed to happen. Like I said, I love this group of guys. We all love each other. We all know that when any of us get emotional, there’s no malice and no bad intentions behind it. I think that’s kind of where and how we were all able to have the higher (outcome) because we all knew that it was coming from a great place.
Jay King: Marcus Smart called the Game 2 argument “electrifying.” He said families fight sometimes. “We weren’t supposed to be happy down 2-0.”

http://twitter.com/EnesKanter/status/1307520941682036736
The aftermath of the Celtics' locker-room argument lasted deep into Thursday night and Friday afternoon before tensions between players were finally cooled, according to an NBA source. After Boston’s disheartening 106-101 loss to the Miami Heat in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference finals, screaming, yelling and items being thrown could be heard outside the locker room at AdventHealth Arena for 20-plus minutes as NBA officials and reporters waited anxiously for the players and coach Brad Stevens to be available for interviews.
Marcus Smart came out of that meeting chiding his teammates for their finger-pointing and lack of execution down the stretch. According to the source, Smart entered the locker room and began criticizing his teammates for their effort, going on a tirade as they watched.
As Smart continued to scream, Jaylen Brown told him to calm down and said losing was a team responsibility. Brown apparently flipped a table and the two had to be separated, which is when Smart left the room to use the rest room.
Smart has been deemed responsible for the incident but the yelling continued once he left for the rest room, which was down the hall from the locker room. Five minutes later Smart re-entered the locker room, where coaches and players could be heard yelling and throwing items for several more minutes.
And while the situation was downplayed by all parties — except Smart, who did not speak with the media — the situation continued a few hours after the game as Stevens met with Smart, Brown, Jayson Tatum and Kemba Walker to attempt to calm feelings. Smart, according to a source, grew angry again and left the late-night meeting abruptly as he and Brown began exchanging words.
Jared Weiss: Brad Stevens on what he's learned about his team over the past 48 hours: "I don't know that I've learned a lot...Teams have times where emotions come up, that's just part of it."
Boston Celtics coach Brad Stevens held a late-night hotel meeting with the team's leaders on Thursday to talk through the frustration and emotions that spilled into the locker room after a Game 2 loss to Miami in the Eastern Conference finals, sources told ESPN. Stevens met with Jayson Tatum, Kemba Walker, Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart starting around 1 a.m. ET, and he let those players talk through the issues that had led to significant yelling and outbursts in the postgame locker room, sources said.
In the locker room and meeting, sources said, Smart's focus had been on heightening the urgency of a Celtics team that had blown a 20-point lead in the second half -- and turned the ball over 20 times for the game.
Part of the discussion in the late-night meeting had been about making sure the Celtics integrated forward Gordon Hayward as smoothly as possible back into the lineup, sources said. The Celtics upgraded Hayward (ankle) to questionable on Friday and are hopeful that he could play a role off the bench in Game 3 on Saturday, sources said. Among the coaching staff and players, there was a belief that players had sufficiently talked through the issues and were ready to start preparing for Game 3 on Saturday, sources said.
Nothing in the locker room escalated to a physical confrontation, sources said, and ultimately Smart marched out to start cooling off.
Stevens met with Jayson Tatum, Kemba Walker, Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart starting around after 1 a.m. ET, and let those players talk through the issues that had led to significant yelling and outbursts in the post-game locker room, sources said. Among the coaching staff and players, there was a belief that players had sufficiently talked through the issues and were ready to start preparing for Game 3 on Saturday, sources said.
Nothing in the locker room escalated to anything close to a physical confrontation, sources said, and ultimately Smart marched out of the locker room to start cooling off. The stakes and circumstances of the series --- losing a second straight close playoff game to Miami, two-plus months confined to the Disney Wide World of Sports Bubble environment - certainly contributed to a scene that can be typical of postseason failure.
Boston Celtics’ Marcus Smart and Jaylen Brown had a heated confrontation inside that locker room after the Game 2 loss and needed to be separated by teammates, multiple sources told The Athletic. Smart, who is widely regarded as Boston’s emotional leader, was heard shouting inside the postgame locker room after the Celtics’ loss to Miami.
Sources told The Athletic that Smart stormed into the Celtics postgame locker room saying that other players needed to be held accountable and not simply point the finger toward him when things are going wrong. As Smart continued and his voice grew louder, sources said Brown snapped back and shouted that Celtics players must stay together and that their actions must come as a team, not individually, and that Smart needed to cool off. Those sources added Smart had verbal exchanges with a couple of the assistant coaches during the game.
Smart and Brown had a tense interaction inside the locker room, with objects thrown around. Teammates diffused the situation before any physical altercation could take place, sources told The Athletic.
As Smart began to blow his gasket, ESPN’s Malika Andrews and the Boston Globe’s Gary Washburn tweeted about the situation in real-time before the rest of us media folks arrived to take a look. It had been nearly 10 minutes since the tweeting began, and you could still hear the yelling coming through the door. Before then, a Celtics assistant coach and a team security official made the mistake of opening the door mid-argument and letting all those f-bombs escape. In the minutes that followed, the security official and the team’s media services manager, Brian Olive, stood at the door waiting for the storm to pass while the postgame media routine was temporarily put on hold. At 9:55 p.m., approximately 30 minutes after the game had come to an end, it was finally safe to enter.
“That team is together for 48 minutes,” Brown said of the Heat. “I think we’ve yet to do that. I think we’re capable. We need every piece, everybody, to be all in and to continue to bring that energy, is what we’re gonna need. But I think this series is far from over. I’m ready for Game 3. I’m ready to come out, because that’s what it’s all about. Backs against the wall, ups, downs, fight.
Enes Kanter: Too many Bullsh.t rumors out there, this group of guys is one of the best I’ve been around. No one can split our family up. Keep fighting & grinding.
Jared Weiss: I know there were reports of what sounded like furniture hitting the wall in the Celtics locker room. I doubt this is it, but Semi Ojelye used to slam a medicine ball off the wall for an intense workout after frustrating losses.
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