Ime Udoka is back on the bench, and Rockets fans should be happy

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

NBA basketball returns on October 24. We count days like seconds on a shot clock—that is, That’s what we do. Starting Oct. 1, our writers will list 24 storylines for the 2023-24 NBA season.

A new storyline drops every day. Here it is No. 18:


Ime Udoka is back on the bench, and Rockets fans should be happy.

Don’t expect a repeat of Udoka’s first season in Boston (2021-22), when he led the Celtics to the NBA Finals for the first time since 2010. Houston’s talented, young staff is not yet at that level.

But with Udoka instilling a culture of accountability and hard work, the Rockets are making a big leap in Phase 2 of the rebuild this season. The established veteran additions of Fred VanVleet and Jeff Green — along with Dillon Brooks — will be key in shaping a defense-first mentality in Houston.

In Udoka’s lone season in Boston, the Celtics ranked No. 1 in scoring defense while ranking in the top 10 in offense en route to the Finals.

The 46-year-old also represents one of the latest branches to sprout from the Gregg Popovich coaching tree. In Houston, he brought in several assistants from previous stops in San Antonio, Philadelphia, Brooklyn and Boston in Ben Sullivan, Royal Ivy, Garrett Jackson, Thiago Splitter, Cam Hodges and Mike Moser.

„Ime is special because he’s not too far removed from today’s culture and this generation,” Hodges told NBA.com. „He’s a fierce competitor, he’s great at building relationships. He’s a former player. Everything they’ve done, he’s already done. His demeanor is just business. Your players see that and they’ll pick up on that.

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Like VanVliet, Green and Brooks, Udoka built a respectable NBA playing career through hard work, stability and determination. Expect the Rockets’ new veterans and coaching staff to quickly instill those traits into a franchise enduring a three-year postseason drought.

It’s unlikely Houston will return to the playoffs in 2024, but you’ll see steady change. That’s crucial for the development of Jalen Green, Jabari Smith Jr., Alberon Sengun and rookie Amen Thompson.

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Michael C. Wright is a senior writer for NBA.com. You can email him here and find his archive Here And follow him Twitter.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Warner Bros. Discovery.

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