Marcus Smart addresses Ime Udoka report, denies Celtics 'disconnect' originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston
Are tensions still lingering from the Boston Celtics' dismissal of Ime Udoka?
Adrian Wojnarowski suggested as much Monday on ESPN's "NBA Countdown," reporting that Celtics players "never got over" the team's suspension and eventual firing of Udoka.
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"These players did not accept the organization’s reasoning for doing it. They thought it was a wild overreaction," Wojnarowski said of Udoka's dismissal for violating team policies, reportedly due to an improper relationship with a female staffer.
Smart sends confident message before Game 4: 'Don't let us get one'
Marcus Smart pushed back on Wojnarowski's report Tuesday, however, insisting that Udoka's absence (and head coach Joe Mazzulla's presence) isn't the reason Boston trails the Miami Heat 3-0 in the Eastern Conference Finals.
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"No, no. Regardless of if Ime was here or not, we’re the ones out there playing," Smart told reporters Tuesday morning in Miami ahead of Game 4 at Kaseya Center. "We've got to go out there and play. Joe does a great job of putting us in the right positions. They come up with a game plan. It’s on us.
"There's only so much that any coach can do for you out there as a player. At some point, you've just got to look at yourself and figure it out."
Mazzulla's learning curve has been steep in his first postseason as an NBA head coach, and he took the blame for not having his players ready for Game 3, an embarrassing 26-point loss in Miami. But Smart reiterated that the players need to take more responsibility.
"He wants to be perfect, he wants to do everything right. But it’s not on Joe," Smart said. "Joe can’t go out there and check himself into the game. It’s on us. We appreciate Joe taking it, but everything isn’t on Joe. It's on us."
Smart also denied any "disconnect" between the players and Mazzulla after the head coach said after Game 3 he needs to "figure out what this team needs to make sure that they’re connected."
"There's no disconnect," Smart said. "It's just, we're off right now. We had a bad week. We've been playing great basketball up to this point, and things happen. There's no disconnect. We've just got to go out there and figure out how to get a win, and once we do that, all this disconnect stuff will go out the window."
To Smart's point, winning cures everything, and if the Celtics can find a way to win Game 4, they'll at least temporarily quiet the noise that's been building around this team amid a disappointing East Finals showing to date.