THE Ime Udoka has become very intriguing, more for what we do not know than what we know. The lack of information plays like a cliffhanger in a limited series, and the teases from personalities around the league play like a post-credit scene from the Marvel Cinematic Universe movies. They just leave you hungry for more.
The essential tweeters
Head coach Ime Udoka of the Boston Celtics is suspended for the entire 2022-2023 season. Udoka was a breakout coach, leading the Celtics to the NBA Finals in a highly competitive Eastern Conference in his very first season. The reason given was that Udoka had an "improper intimate relationship with a female member of the team staff."
One of the initial words used was "consensual," which made it seem like it's not a big deal. But that was before the length of the suspension was revealed. Suddenly, the description of Shams Carania that it was "intimate" and "inappropriate" came to the forefront.
Along with Shams Carania, the acknowledged "bottom line" reporter in the NBA is Adrian Wojnarowski. His tweet was the final tweet, separating fact from fiction. His infallible credibility may be placed in question with this issue, as the dealer of "Woj bombs" suddenly became Udoka's gatekeeper, and the events that followed his initial tweet exposed how he played too safely.
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Wojnarowski's initial tweets downplayed the situation, even saying that Udoka's job is "not in jeopardy." The way it was framed, it seemed like a slight disciplinary infraction. A deep dive reveals that Wojnarowski, just like Udoka, is under the CAA empire. This is the sports agency that reigns across sports and showbiz. It cast a shadow on Wojnarowski's earlier tweets. Now we know it's not a simple infraction, and we have clues.
Matt Barnes blows it up
Most basketball fans remember Matt Barnes as the agitator who tried to throw a ball on Kobe's face, and accidentally added a page to the Black Mamba legend. But "agitator" is exactly what Barnes is.
An understated scandal in the NBA was Matt Barnes and Derek Fisher had a physical altercation since Fisher dated Barnes' ex-wife. While Barnes and his wife were about to divorce, it's still a hit to his ego, so we can only imagine it's an all out brawl. The point is, Barnes has seen things, so when he says the Udoka scandal is "100 times uglier than any of us thought," that got more than eyebrows raised.
So now we have the polar opposites — the watered-down version and the on-steroids version, what can we really deduce?
What we should know
Ime Udoka was suspended for the entire season, but he was not fired. It would be very weird for Udoka to just return after this season, and insiders say "he's done" as far as coaching the Celtics is concerned.
Why wasn't he fired? It gives a clue on the extent of what he did. It's not a crime, otherwise, arrests would be made. It's not sexual assault or harrassment, otherwise, the Celtics would have disassociated with him immediately. The idea that it was "consensual" holds water, but it could be initial.
The insinuation was that the woman involved was married, possibly to someone in position with the Celtics organization. Udoka is not married, even though he is in a relationship with actress Nia Long.
The press conference featuring GM Brad Stevens and co-owner Wyc Grousbeck gives a clue that they already knew something — specifically Stevens. He was holding back tears, and it was also stated that the Celtics, as a team or organization, "knew about it." Piecing the puzzle together, it was an affair that went wrong. Just how wrong?
The media leaks likely came from Udoka's camp, with Woj being the chief damage controller. The Celtics reportedly had an "internal investigation" from a law firm, but before they could release their findings (or it's likely they didn't plan to make it public), Woj already had his tweets. Too bad Shams wasn't on their payroll, and they could never stop Matt Barnes.
Stay tuned, and wait. There's more.