Most head coaches in the NBA probably would like to have the absence of the sort of distraction that Daryl Morey’s tweet about Hong Kong caused when his Twitter activism sparked a massive firestorm for the Houston Rockets, the team he was the general manager of at the time.
And for Boston Celtics head coach Ime Udoka, it might indeed be a little easier for him if outspoken big man Enes Kanter was not going after China politically on Twitter himself, but the ecosystem within the NBA for voicing criticism against the Chinese government has much firmer footing now than it did then, even with the Celtics effectively banned in China from being broadcaster as a result of Kanter’s online protests.
The Turkish center has received support in high-profile corners and from his own team in contrast to the kerfuffle that followed Morey, with Udoka picking up his player’s back when asked about the situation after practice Monday.
“I’ve talked to him, and I saw (his posts),” explained the Celtics coach when asked if Kanter’s politics have impacted his playing time. “The thing I tell players is that we have a lot of guys who aren’t playing, could be playing, and want to play.”
“I’ve been through the same situation as a player. But our playing time reasoning is strictly based on basketball. And I’ve talked (about) this (with) him, the reasons he’s not playing as much in some of the things we’re doing defensively and in areas for him to improve on and so, my thing is strictly basketball. We’re switching a lot and doing some things that probably are not as natural for him. And that’s limited his time to some extent, but at the same time, it’s not just a result of what he’s not doing, other guys are doing well.”
Udoka noted that Robert Williams III and Al Horford have been gobbling up the lion’s share of the frontcourt minutes as well.
Udoka emphasized that the rotation was in no way influenced by politics, reiterating that “we want to find the minutes, but other guys are playing well and to this point is strictly basketball thing.”
Given the lack of media attention or even statement from the NBA itself, this seems to be the case, particularly given the team’s support for Kanter’s outspoken politics in the past.