Get Excited: Ime Udoka Returns to the Bench, Sparking Joy for Rockets Fans!

Ime Udoka (center) will rely on new addition Fred VanVleet (left) to help lead Houston’s young team in 2023-24.

NBA basketball returns on October 24. Our excitement is building up like the seconds on a shot clock — yes, we’re literally counting down with each passing moment. Starting from October 1, our team of writers will be presenting 24 captivating storylines leading up to the highly anticipated 2023-24 NBA season.

Stay tuned for a new pick every day. Let’s dive into No. 18:

Ime Udoka returns to the Houston Rockets’ bench, and fans should be thrilled.

We’re not expecting a replication of Udoka’s debut season (2021-22) with the Boston Celtics, where he steered the team to the NBA Finals for the first time since 2010. Quite frankly, Houston’s young talents aren’t at that level yet.

However, we can anticipate a significant leap forward in Houston’s rebuilding phase this season as Udoka establishes a culture of accountability and hard work. The inclusion of experienced veterans Fred VanVleet and Jeff Green, along with Dillon Brooks, will be vital in shaping Houston’s mindset to prioritize defense.

In Udoka’s single season with the Celtics, the team finished first in defensive efficiency while also ranking in the top 10 in offense, ultimately leading them to the Finals.

At 46 years old, Udoka is one of the latest offshoots from the esteemed Gregg Popovich coaching tree. In Houston, he brings along several assistants from his previous stints in San Antonio, Philadelphia, Brooklyn, and Boston, including Ben Sullivan, Royal Ivey, Garrett Jackson, Tiago Splitter, Cam Hodges, and Mike Moser.

“Ime is truly special because he’s not disconnected from today’s culture and this generation,” Hodges expressed to “He’s an extraordinary competitor who excels in building relationships. He’s a former player with vast experience. Everything the players go through, he’s already been there. His demeanor is purely professional. The players see that and will adopt the same identity.”

Like VanVleet, Green, and Brooks, Udoka achieved a respectable playing career in the NBA through hard work, stability, and tenacity. Expect the Rockets’ new recruits and coaching staff to quickly instill these qualities in a franchise that has suffered a three-year absence from the postseason.

While it may seem unlikely for Houston to make the playoffs in 2024, there will undoubtedly be a noticeable, sustainable change. This will be crucial for the growth and development of players like Jalen Green, Jabari Smith Jr., Alperen Sengun, and rookie Amen Thompson.

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Michael C. Wright is a senior writer for You can reach him via email here and find his archive here. Feel free to follow him on Twitter.

The opinions expressed on this page do not necessarily represent those of the NBA, its clubs, or Warner Bros. Discovery.


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