Rockets' new coach Udoka offers subtle jab at Raptors at first press conference

Apr 26 2023, 8:37 pm

The Toronto Raptors haven’t played a basketball game in nearly two weeks, but that hasn’t stopped them from being the target of a few sneak disses.

The words came out of the mouth of Ime Udoka, who was hired earlier this week by the Rockets, and had been reported to be one of Toronto’s top candidates for their vacant head coaching job after parting ways with Nick Nurse.

And when asked why he took the Houston job over other options — such as the Raptors or the vacant Detroit Pistons job caused by the retirement from coaching from former Toronto bench boss Dwane Casey, Udoka said the Rockets were a “more attractive” option.

“Obviously Houston and Detroit were the ones that opened up immediately and then Toronto after that,” Udoka said, flagged by SDPN’s Esfandiar Baraheni. “I was glad [the Rockets] reached out, young, talented team.”

The Rockets were 22-60 this season, finishing 14th in the Western Conference. Meanwhile, Toronto went 41-41 and finished 9th in the Eastern Conference but missed out on the NBA playoffs by way of losing the 9/10 play-in game to the Chicago Bulls.

“Honestly, this is more attractive than a lot of the mid-level teams that kind of have that ceiling that you know, five seed ceiling, some teams that do reach out, I’d rather start with a young core group and try to build something great here,” Udoka added.

Udoka finished fourth of the year in NBA Coach of the Year voting in 2021-22 after his rookie season behind the Boston Celtics’ bench but was suspended for the entirety of this past season due to an off-court scandal that involved a reported extramarital relationship with a member of his staff.

Udoka was eventually replaced in a full-time role by former interim coach Joe Mazzulla in Boston, who led the Celtics to a 57-25 record in the regular season. Meanwhile, Udoka is replacing Stephen Silas, who was fired by the Rockets at the end of the season after three seasons in charge.

The Rockets are led by youngsters Jalen Green and Alperen Sengun, both of whom debuted with the team in the 2021-22 season. The team currently possesses 14% odds at the top pick in this year’s NBA draft, with a shot of landing top prospect Victor Wembanyama should they win the lottery on May 16.

Adam LaskarisAdam Laskaris

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