May 13, 2022; Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA; Boston Celtics head coach Ime Udoka gestures during the third quarter against the Milwaukee Bucks during game six of the second round for the 2022 NBA playoffs at Fiserv Forum. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Ime Udoka’s year-long suspension and eventual dismissal from the Celtics were shrouded in ambiguity from the beginning.

Eight months later, we still don’t have any answers. The end of Udoka’s abbreviated run in Boston remains the biggest mystery in sports, with neither side supplying much clarification.

Yet, in the absence of information, it’s seemingly become conventional wisdom that Udoka was wronged. Led by Stephen A. Smith, the voices lambasting the Celtics for their handling of the episode are only getting louder.

And they may explode if the Celtics drop their series to the inferior Miami Heat.

For most of the season, the Udoka scandal seemed to be forgotten. The Houston Rockets hired him to minimal fanfare last month, and reporters barely asked Udoka about how his time ended in Boston.

But now Udoka is back in the headlines, with ESPN lead NBA Insider Adrian Wojnarowski’s bombshell report about Celtics players “never getting over” his departure. The story couldn’t have come at a worst time: the Celtics are down 3-1 to the Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals, and rookie head coach Joe Mazzulla appears completely overwhelmed.

Celtics players may deny Woj’s report, but there seems to be some truth to it. Earlier this season, Marcus Smart told The Boston Globe that Udoka’s name got “slandered” and “slaughtered.” Stars Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown also expressed frustration about their lack of knowledge regarding the situation.

Wojnarowski says players still don’t know what happened. “These players did not accept the organization’s reason for doing it, they thought it was a wild overreaction,” he said on ESPN Tuesday. “There are a lot of people on the outside who thought it was an overreaction—it was an HR matter. I think for this team, talking with management, they never got any more answers that the public was getting on this.”

Could that really be the case? Udoka, who took the Celtics within one game of winning the NBA championship, lost his job over an “HR matter?”

The original reporting, and subsequent speculation, about Udoka’s suspension was ominous. Woj, who plays a starring role in this saga, tweeted late one night that the beloved Celtics coach was facing a “significant suspension” for an “unspecified violation of organizational guidelines.”

The news item came with a special “breaking news” graphic, complete with a big picture of Woj’s mug (not surprising from somebody who reportedly sends a social media pitch deck to potential sources, but that’s beside the point).

A couple of hours later, Woj’s chief Insider rival, Shams Charania, came out with an even more sinister detail: Udoka carried on “an improper and consensual relationship with a female member of the team’s staff.”

The next morning, Wojnarowski added that Udoka’s suspension would probably be one year. That insinuated Udoka’s misstep, or missteps, were catastrophic. The NFL suspended Deshaun Watson for only 11 games after more than two dozen women accused him of sexual misconduct.

Yet, Udoka was going to get one year for a consensual relationship? The details didn’t seem to add up.

As a result, rampant and reckless speculation filled the information vacuum. For days on Twitter, people disgustingly floated the names of various Celtics female employees, tying them to Udoka.

But the biggest salvo came from ex-NBA player Matt Barnes, who said the real details about Udoka’s scandal are “100 times uglier” than he originally thought.

Suddenly, Charania’s report about Udoka’s improper relationship being consensual seemed like a categoric understatement. How could a consensual inner-office romance be “100 times uglier” than anybody’s imagination?

Even when Charania reported the woman accused Udoka of making “unwanted comments” toward her, it still seemed underwhelming. The Celtics didn’t add much clarification in their press conference, with owner Wyc Grousbeck only sharing a timeline of events. Apparently, an outside investigation unearthed that Udoka committed “multiple violations” of team policy.

Then the season started, and everybody was silent–except for Woj.  He kept pushing the idea that Udoka’s coaching future was bright, even with scant details about the affair.

Wojnarowski faced blowback for that. Former ESPN NBA Warriors reporter Ethan Strauss theorized on his Substack that Woj was possibly protecting Udoka due to their joint affiliation with Creative Artists Agency (CAA).

The Daily Beast derided Woj’s, and the NBA’s media coverage of the Udoka story, as “shallow.”

But nobody was more boisterous than Smith. He originally blasted the Celtics for their handling of the matter, resulting in an on-air confrontation with reporter Malika Andrews.

Afterward, Andrews was harassed on social media.

Smith toned down his rhetoric in the immediate aftermath of his confrontation with Andrews. But in recent weeks, he’s started to ramp up his venom. Last month, he said he would “never forget” Udoka’s dismissal, and took it as a racial issue.

This week, he said the Celtics’ playoff struggles are “justice” for their treatment of Udoka.

It’s notable that Smith, ESPN’s biggest opinion pundit, is backing Udoka so vociferously. Months ago, he peppered his defense with caveats, even saying “Ime Udoka cannot be defended.”

But now, his waffling is gone. Smith, and others, have no problem saying Udoka was unjustly vilified, even if they won’t provide specifics on why.

If there is more to the story, nobody is currently taking the other side.