Celtics fans should love Udoka's initial message for Tatum, Brown


Among Ime Udoka's many tasks as new head coach of the Boston Celtics, one stands out: Helping Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown reach new heights.

The two budding young stars are Boston's foundational pieces, and while they've already achieved remarkable individual success -- Tatum is a two-time All-Star at age 23, while Brown made his first All-Star team this season at age 24 -- they've yet to lead the Celtics past the Eastern Conference finals.

You could argue it's too early to expect Tatum and Brown to carry Boston on a deep playoff run, but that's not the message Udoka plans to send his two best players.

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In his introductory press conference Monday, the Celtics head coach and former San Antonio Spurs assistant said he'll tell Tatum and Brown the same thing he told Kawhi Leonard early in his career.

"Talking to Kawhi Leonard as a young guy, and I used to tell him, 'Why wait? What are you waiting for? These guys, don't give them too much respect,' " Udoka said, as seen in the video above.

"And I'd say the same thing to Jayson and Jaylen: The sky is the limit. The fact that you're not All-NBA, that should be a chip on your shoulder. You should play with that edge and want to prove people wrong.

"My message to them would be, 'Why wait? The talent is there, the work ethic is there, there's a chance to be a better leader and more vocal at times, but don't wait for anything. Go out and take it."

Udoka joined the Spurs a year after Leonard in 2012, and his message clearly worked for the future superstar, who helped lead the Spurs to an NBA title in just his third season and won NBA Finals MVP at age 22. Leonard didn't make his first All-Star team until his fifth season, but he's since become one of the league's best two-way players.

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That's exactly the message Tatum and Brown need to hear, too. They're both on the right path to becoming NBA superstars, and given their talent, there's no reason why they can't accelerate that process to both make the All-NBA team next season.

Udoka has a reputation for working well with players, so there's a good chance Tatum and Brown will be on the same page as their new head coach.

"I take it back to my playing days: Whether I was a role player on a team, I always connected well with the guys," Udoka explained. "When I was with the Knicks, Isiah Thomas was probably the first coach who mentioned that I'd be a coach one day. He said, 'You connect with the young guys. You're not a 25-point scorer, but they relate to you well. You push them the right way.'

"So, I took that into my coaching career, not just relationship-wise as a player but as a coach."

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