Report details Ime Udoka's role in Celtics' amazing turnaround


The Boston Celtics are six games away becoming the third team in NBA history to win at least 60% of its regular-season games after sitting below .500 at the midway point of the season. So, who deserves credit for their historic turnaround?

Jayson Tatum is near the top of the list amid a career season that's generating some "fringe MVP" buzz. Jaylen Brown has been a consistent 20-plus-point scorer, Marcus Smart has emerged as an elite facilitator and Robert Williams was thriving on both ends of the floor prior to tearing his meniscus.

But we shouldn't discount the work their boss has done, either.

Forsberg: Smart vows to pull Celtics through Robert Williams' injury

First-year head coach Ime Udoka has gotten impressive buy-in from the entire roster -- especially Tatum, Brown, Smart and Williams -- while establishing a defense-first mindset in Boston. While he raised some eyebrows earlier in the season by calling out his players publicly, the 44-year-old former NBA journeyman appears to have gained respect in the locker room that has produced results on the floor.

Bleacher Report's Jake Fischer offered some good insight Tuesday into Udoka's coaching methods.

"Udoka, sources told B/R, balances the line between establishing a level of seriousness and a loose environment while focusing on communicating clear roles and hierarchies for Celtics players and coaching staffers alike," Fischer wrote.

Fischer added that the former San Antonio Spurs assistant is a "true Gregg Popovich disciple" who "barks specific offensive sets in the half-court" and has surprised some people with his press-conference bluntness.

Udoka's occasionally harsh comments combined with the Celtics' early-season struggles sparked speculation that the team may look to split up Tatum and Brown; Fischer reports the Philadelphia 76ers, Miami Heat and Atlanta Hawks were among the "hopeful Brown suitors" if the C's opted to blow it up.

Instead, Udoka has acted as "further connective tissue" between Tatum and Brown, Fischer reports, noting that both young stars have bought into Udoka's philosophy of playing strong defense and unselfish, team-oriented offense.

Udoka's toughest task is ahead of him, as the Celtics' path to success in the Eastern Conference playoffs got a lot harder following Williams' injury. But Udoka and his staff deserve a ton of credit for not only getting the C's back on track, but helping improve the chemistry of Boston's "Core Four" and ensuring their commitment past this season.

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