Pregame Post-Ups: Udoka: ‘Most Excited I’ve Ever Been' for Preseason Game
Monday, Oct. 4 - Magic at Celtics
Pregame – Udoka: ‘Most Excited I’ve Ever Been for a Preseason Game’
After years of playing and coaching inside TD Garden as an opponent of the Boston Celtics, Ime Udoka will finally get to take in the experience as a member of the Boston Celtics Monday night.
Although it will only be an exhibition match against the Orlando Magic, Boston’s new head coach claims, “It’s probably the most excited I’ve ever been for a preseason game.”
Udoka has spent the past several weeks with his new coaching staff preparing to test their product on the court. This preseason opener will be the first opportunity to do so, and in front of a packed house.
“Although it’s just a preseason game for us, we do have new coaching staff, new personnel and we want to kind of get that jelling pretty quickly with only four games to play (before the regular season),” Udoka said prior to the 7:30 p.m. tip-off. “So it’s a good vibe, we’re happy to get to play against someone else, see some different coverages than what we’ve been seeing in training camp. I think the staff and players are both looking forward to it.”
Part of the jelling process is figuring out which groups of players work best together. Udoka said he’ll be testing out various starting groups, beginning with Monday night’s fivesome of Marcus Smart, Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum, Juancho Hernangomez, and Robert Williams.
It’s no surprise to see four of those names, as Smart, Brown, Tatum, and Williams all started several games for the C’s last season. However, seeing newcomer Hernangomez as the starting power forward for the first preseason game was not as expected.
“Him as well as some other guys that could play in that position,” Udoka said of the decision to start Hernangomez. “We kind of know what we have as far as Al (Horford). He’s been great in training camp and great overall. And we want to look at some different combinations. Juancho’s a guy that fits into that role with some of the younger wings we have as well as Grant Williams. So as I mentioned the other day, we’ll tinker with some lineups and look at different combinations.”
Udoka also revealed that his veteran players won’t be playing more than two quarters' worth of minutes in their first appearance.
The coach says he wants “a little balance as far as looking at some young guys, but not overdoing it with the veteran guys. So we’re trying to limit them to 24 minutes and we’ll see what that entails whether it’s all in the first half trying to get a lot of minutes early or shut them down after the third quarter.”
Udoka will continue to tinker with those lineups and minutes at least through the next two weeks of the preseason as he gets a feel for his new team. Monday night marks the beginning of that long-awaited process, and he can’t wait.
- Taylor Snow