Lakers

Lakers News: Rival Team Will Lose Head Coach for Entire Year

And it’s not just any rival team…

The Boston Celtics, your Los Angeles Lakers’ ultimate on-court rival, have been dealt a devastating blow just one week ahead of their Media Day press conference commitments.

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Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN first reported that the Celtics were set to suspend second-year head coach Ime Udoka for misconduct that violated the team’s “organizational guidelines.” Udoka, married to movie star Nia Long, carried on a consensual affair with an unnamed Boston female employee.

This evening, Boston made the news official, releasing a stern press statement where the team revealed that it would make a determination on Udoka’s long-term future with the team at some point down the line. 

A former journeyman small forward, Udoka transitioned to a role on the sidelines after his playing career concluded. He toiled for nine seasons as an assistant coach with the San Antonio Spurs, the Philadelphia 76ers, and finally the Brooklyn Nets, before ultimately winning the Celtics gig.

Udoka had emerged as a wildly-popular first-year head coach during a 2021-22 inaugural season with the Celtics that had gone almost as well as it possibly could have. Udoka lifted the club from a .500 record and a first-round playoff exit in 2020-21 under Brad Stevens to a 51-31 finish and an NBA Finals appearance in 2021-22. Granted, Boston ultimately lost the series in six games to 2022 Finals MVP Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors, but that run marked quite the turnaround for a talented young Celtics franchise that had seemingly struggled to gel in recent seasons.

In terms of team chemistry, this could be a drastically destabilizing moment for the Lakers’ least favorite NBA team. The decision to suspend, not fire (for now), Udoka while announcing his indiscretions to the world puts Boston in a particular vulnerable place in terms of team chemistry and its league-wide perception.

Los Angeles also lost its head coach heading into this season, albeit as the result of a more ho-hum firing. Of course, defensive-oriented Frank Vogel is not exactly to blame for Rob Pelinka’s bonkers roster additions in 2021. L.A. won the title during Vogel’s initial 2019-20 season with the team.

In an interesting development, Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated hints that Vogel, who Mannix notes has a close bond with Celtics team president Brad Stevens, could join Boston’s bench to serve as an assistant under expected new interim head coach Joe Mazzulla. The 34-year-old Mazzulla, entering just his fourth season on an NBA bench, could use some veteran leadership on his team. Vogel went 127-98 with Los Angeles across his three regular seasons with the team, though much of that somewhat middling record is a result of the team’s embarrassing 33-49 2021-22 run, more a failure of bankrupt roster construction than of ineffective coaching.

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