On the morning of June 10, 2022, the Boston Celtics woke up with a 2-1 series lead in the NBA Finals over the Golden State Warriors just two wins away from an NBA championship. Fans and players were feeling on top of the world. However, later that night they lost and went on to lose the series along with a golden opportunity to win a championship. After a productive summer filled with off-season acquisitions and positive vibes, the team was hit with unexpected controversy as the Ime Udoka shocker sent panic throughout Celtic Nation.
“I am concerned about the situation and its effect on everyone in the Celtics organization,” Celtics owner Wyc Grousbeck said at the press conference announcing the 2022-2023 year-long suspension the Celtics head coach. “The players were significantly impacted and surprised by this news.” In what the team called “a violation of team policies”, which has been reported “unwanted comments” after a consensual relationship with a female staffer, the organization took the unprecedented step of suspending their star coach for the entire season. Suddenly the defending Eastern Conference Champions and 2023 title favorites were facing unforeseen adversity.
The string of bad news began when the Celtics learned of a late summer season ending knee injury to newly acquired forward Danilo Gallinari, only to be followed up by news of a second surgery to star Center Rob William’s left knee. Gallinari was expected to provide significant depth for the bench and give much needed rest to stars Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. Williams, a freak athlete, and impact defender went under the knife for a second time to repair “loose bodies and address swelling” in his troublesome left knee, keeping him out at least 2-3 months. Finally, there was the Udoka story that makes it unlikely he will every coach another game for Boston. Assistant coach Joe Mazzula has taken the reins for the upcoming season. Mazzula has zero experience as an NBA head coach and asking him to lead the title favorites this year is probably asking more than he can handle.
It seems like yesterday that the Boston Celtics were riding high coming off a remarkable season on the brink of an NBA championship. In the offseason, they got even stronger adding significant depth to the roster in Malcolm Brogdon, Blake Griffin, and Gallinari. Experts and analysts were predicting an almost guaranteed return trip to the Finals. While many still see the team as one of the favorites, this unexpected Udoka drama raises a plethora of questions as to whether the team can overcome this mountain of adversity.
The regular season tips off at the Garden Tuesday night vs. the 76ers and we will soon find out what effect these road bumps will have on Joe Mazzula’s Celtics.T he good news is that most of the puzzle pieces remain in place. But with a few key ones missing, we’ll have to wait until next June to find out if this season was as successful as Celtics fans were expecting after taking the Warriors to Game 6 when the games last counted.