Boston Celtics Still NBA Title Favorite Amidst Ime Udoka’s Possible Suspension

Posted on: September 22, 2022, 11:09h. 

Last updated on: September 22, 2022, 03:24h.

The Boston Celtics are the consensus betting favorite to win the 2022-23 NBA Championship. Oddsmakers may alter their title odds after a definitive decision on how long the Celtics will suspend head coach Ime Udoka for violating the team’s code of conduct.

Ime Udoka Boston Celtics head coach suspension relationship Nia Long odds championship title
Ime Udoka led the Boston Celtics to the NBA Finals during his rookie season as a head coach. Udoka could miss the entire upcoming season for a team conduct violation. (Image: Getty)

The Celtics are currently +550 odds to win the championship via DraftKings’ NBA futures board.

Udoka had an “improper intimate and consensual relationship” with a female member of the Celtics’ staff, according to a report from The Athletic on Wednesday evening. Udoka’s behavior was in direct violation of the team’s policy. ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported that the Celtics could issue a one-year suspension.

Udoka has been in a 12-year relationship with actress Nia Long. The two aren’t married, but they have a son together.

Three months ago, the Celtics battled the Golden State Warriors in the 2022 NBA Finals during Udoka’s rookie season as a head coach. The Celtics were ready to defend their Eastern Conference crown and resume their pursuit of a championship.

Celtics Seeking Championship Banner #18

The Celtics went 51-31 last season, including a scorching 28-7 clip in the last 35 games of the regular season. They were awarded the #2 seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs. They swept the Brooklyn Nets in the first round but needed a full seven games to defeat the defending champion, Milwaukee Bucks, in the conference semifinals. The Celtics held off a banged-up Miami Heat squad in the Eastern Conference finals to secure a spot in the NBA Finals. The Golden State Warriors knocked out the Celtics in six games to win the title.

Expectations were high heading into the upcoming season after Udoka’s sensational rookie debut as an NBA head coach. The Celtics added key veterans like Malcolm Brogdon to bolster their bench.

There were rumors in the off-season that the Celtics could trade a couple of starters and future draft picks to acquire Kevin Durant in a trade with the Brooklyn Nets. The trade talks simmered down after Nets owner Joe Tsai and Durant worked out their issues.

If the Celtics attempt to win their 18th championship as a franchise, the team may have to do it without Udoka on the sidelines.

Next Celtics Coach

The Celtics lost their top assistant in the off-season. Will Hardy became the youngest head coach in the NBA when the Utah Jazz hired him to replace Quin Snyder. Ex-Celtics general manager Danny Ainge is the president of basketball operations for the Jazz, so he was familiar with Hardy’s diligent work as an assistant coach. Hardy developed a reputation for his keen attention to detail as a defensive mastermind. The Celtics wish they still had Hardy on the payroll because he would have been a unanimous choice to replace Udoka as head coach.

The Celtics have three assistant coaches underneath Udoka: Ben Sullivan, Joe Mazzulla, and Damon Stoudamire. One of them will most likely get named interim head coach while Udoka serves his suspension.

Sullivan was Udoka’s top bench assistant behind Hardy last season. Sullivan was an assistant coach with the Milwaukee Bucks for three seasons before joining the Celtics last season. He earned accolades for helping Giannis “Greek Freak” Antetokounmpo improve his outside shooting. He also won an NBA championship with the Bucks in 2020-21. Most recently, Sullivan coached the Celtics during the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas.

Mazzulla is the only assistant coach on the current staff who also worked under former head coach Brad Stevens. Mazzulla was a valuable assistant under Udoka last season for his ability to scheme both offense and defense, a rare combination. Even though he wasn’t a top assistant coach, he was a finalist for the Utah Jazz vacancy.

Stoudamire logged 15 seasons in the NBA as a point guard before he pivoted to coaching. For the last five seasons, Stoudamire coached in the collegiate ranks as the head coach of the Pacific Tigers in the West Coast Conference. Stoudamire was rumored to become the next head coach at his alma mater, Arizona, but he joined Udoka’s staff in Boston instead.