Boston Celtics have connections in the Bay Area

If you’re a Warriors fan who also happens to be a Bay Area college basketball fan, you might be a little conflicted about this NBA Finals match.

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But if you are also friends or family of Jaylen Brown, Malik Fitts, Ime Udoka or Aaron Miles….

Brown, the Celtics’ second-leading scorer at 23.6 points per game, played a season at Cal in 2015-16 and was the only freshman named to the 10-man All-Conference team for the Pac-12.

Brown was a 5-star recruit from the greater Atlanta area and placed third in the class led by Ben Simmons. The signing was a huge win for Cal coach Cuonzo Martin. With Brown and Ivan Rabb joining a team that included another future NBA player (Jabari Bird) and whose two top scorers returned, Cal opened the season ranked 14th in the nation.

The Bears went 23-11, a disappointing season that ended in an upset loss to 13th-seeded Hawaii in the first round of the NCAA tournament.

Brown declared for the NBA draft and was picked by the Celtics ranked No. 3 behind Simmons and Brandon Ingram.

At just 25 and in his sixth NBA season, Brown made his first All-Star team, along with Andrew Wiggins. These two will likely see each other for some time in this series.

Brown scored 40 points in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals against Miami (a game the Celtics lost in Boston).

Fun Fact: One of Brown’s teammates at Cal was NIck Kerr, son of the Warriors coach.

Malik Fitts is a stand-in for the Celtics, with whom he signed a 10-day contract in February. Fitts played two seasons on Saint Mary’s, Best Supporting Actor on The Jordan Ford Show. In 2019, he was All-WCC on a Gaels team that went 26-8 and would have made the NCAA tournament had one been played amid the pandemic.

Fitts declared himself for the NBA draft after that season, relinquishing his final year of eligibility. It didn’t go as hoped; he was not called up. Fitts got a glimpse of the LA Clippers and made his NBA debut late in the 2020-21 season after signing a 10-day contract. He has played 24 total NBA games, the last six in this playoff run. He made three appearances in the Eastern Conference Finals against Miami, averaging under four minutes, but made his name in history with his first postseason basket in Game 1 of the conference semifinals against Milwaukee.

Fun fact: Born July 4th (1997).

Ime Udoka, The Celtics freshman coach spent a season as a player for the University of San Francisco Dons. A 6-foot-6 forward, he was a member of the 1997-98 team, the last to compete in the NCAA tournament until the Dons ended the drought at age 25 last March. Udoku, a junior transfer from Utah Stave University Eastern, was a deep reserve for USF coach Phil Mathews, who appeared in 21 games and scored 34 points.

After the season, he moved to Portland State where he became a leading man, starting 24 games and averaging 14.5 points and 7.3 rebounds for the Vikings.

Undrafted by an NBA team and unsigned, Udoka played for the Nigeria national team for two years in the NBDL. He made his NBA debut in 2004 with the Lakers, a Kobe-Shaq team coached by Phil Jackson. It was a short stay for Udoka.

He went overseas, returned for a cup of coffee with Knicks, and then had his breakthrough with his hometown team when he started 75 games for the Portland Trail Blazers. He ended up playing 316 NBA games for the Blazers, Spurs and Sacramento Kings. His stint with Spurs led to a spot on Gregg Popovich’s coaching staff in 2012. After eight seasons with Popovich and two more in Philly and Brooklyn, the 44-year-old Udoka was hired last spring to succeed Brad Stevens as Celtics coach.

Fun fact: Udoka already has an NBA championship ring, which he won as a Spurs assistant in 2014.

Aaron Milesa Celtics assistant coach, has no connection to Bay Area college basketball unless you count the three times his Kansas teams have played Cal or Stanford.

Miles’ connection is with the Warriors, and it’s pretty close. He played for the Warriors, 19 games in 2005-06, the team with Baron Davis as point guard, Mike Montgomery as coach and Chris Mullin as GM. The next season was We Believe, but Miles was long gone by then.

Miles, 39, rejoined the Warriors in 2017 as coach of their G-League team in Santa Cruz. That team included Kevon Looney and Klay Thompson’s brother Mychel.

In 2019, Miles was called up to the big club and named Director of Player Development for the Warriors.

Fun fact: It was Miles who opened the door to Udoka’s NBA career; When he physically failed a training camp, the Trail Blazers invited Udoka.

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