SAN FRANCISCO — The Boston Celtics are back in the NBA Finals for the first time in more than a decade, but first-year coach Ime Udoka says that’s no cause for celebration.
“We don’t hang a banner [for that] here,” Udoka said, referring to the Eastern Conference victory. “It’s a bigger picture. I think the mentalities of the guys changed quite quickly.
“Enjoy it. Guys relish it, and you have that free time. Even [Sunday] night in media sessions [after Game 7]and obviously with us in the locker room the guys are already talking about the sequel and the big picture.
“That’s not what we came to do. You enjoy it and get to the task at hand pretty quickly.”
That task, of course, is to find a way to beat the Golden State Warriors, who won three championships and made five straight trips to the NBA Finals from 2015 to 2019 before missing the playoffs each of the past two seasons.
As a result, Golden State enters this series with 123 games of collective NBA Finals experience. Boston, on the other hand, does not have a single player on its roster who has appeared in a Finals game.
Udoka, however, said he wasn’t concerned about the experience gap, pointing to the experience he and his assistant coaches have in the Finals, including assistant Ben Sullivan winning a title with the Milwaukee Bucks. last year and Udoka himself winning a title having coached in multiple finals with the San Antonio Spurs and the amount of playoff experience his players have.
“I can say by being there I know what’s going on and we’ve already shared some of these stories as well as some of the other coaches on my team who have been there and won championships,” Udoka said. “So from that point of view, it is what it is. We will have meetings with the group and talk about these things. But I think in general we have a very mature group, especially with our young guys.Al [Horford] and Marcus [Smart], and our veterans are still very weighted and keep us in line until then. And then I’m not really worried about Jayson [Tatum]Jaylen [Brown] and younger guys who haven’t been on that stage. Like I said, they’ve made it to the Eastern Conference Finals a few times and made it through that stage, so we know what’s in store for us.
“We know what we’re here to play for, and I don’t think any of our guys are impressed or intimidated at the moment. We understand what it’s like. We know the opponent in front of us. And for us, As always, this year business was business as usual. Heading out on the road, not fazed at all. We’re really looking forward to it. Not a lot of anxiety or nervousness. We’ve got that time that we We’re going to take advantage of it, in terms of rest and preparation, and be ready to play for Game 1.”
As part of that rest and preparation, the Celtics will also have the opportunity to allow Robert Williams III to deal with the left knee pain that plagued him throughout the playoffs, and Smart to breathe a variety from top to bottom. right leg, including its quad, ankle and foot.
Williams missed three games against the Bucks in the conference semifinals and Game 3 against the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference finals after sustaining a bone bruise in his left knee – the same one he underwent meniscus surgery on in late March. , which caused him to miss the end of the regular season and the start of Boston’s first-round series against the Brooklyn Nets.
Udoka said the rest would be good for Williams, but – as the coach previously said – Williams will have to deal with the knee throughout the playoffs.
“Rob is fine,” Udoka said. “He’s good. He felt good. His minutes were low, only played 14 in [Game 7 against Miami]. We tried to keep it on the lower end if we could. Obviously, it’s beneficial for him in the future, but also on rest days. So he should feel better in general. Getting checked out today and will continue to receive his treatment and rehab and to reduce swelling and some of the pain and mobility. And so it’s going to be an ongoing thing, as I mentioned. He’s day-to-day pretty much throughout the playoffs. »
Udoka added that Williams, in particular, stands to benefit from the spread out nature of the NBA Finals, with two days off between each game except Games 3 and 4 in Boston.
“[He] should feel better with the time in between, especially with those two days off between games, instead of playing every other day. And I think, going back to the Milwaukee series, we had played 17 straight every other day, and so that’s going to impact you after surgery. We are reducing his minutes and getting him back to feeling better, obviously that will benefit us in the future.”
As for Smart, who missed Games 1 and 4 against Miami – first with a midfoot sprain, then with a sprained ankle – Udoka said he was fine after playing heavy minutes in Boston’s win over Miami.
“Marcus, there is no concern about that,” Udoka said. “The swelling is what it is. It will dissipate over time.
“The pain tolerance thing, obviously he can play a lot, and he did [in Game 7] and played heavy minutes.”