Prior to Thursday night’s game against the Celtics, Clippers head coach Doc Rivers raved about Jayson Tatum, suggesting that the young forward is already “one of the better players in the league,” adding that it will be “amazing” to see where he ends up after a few more years of development, per Darren Hartewell of NBC Sports Boston.
Although Rivers joked before the game that he didn’t need to see “any more growth” out of Tatum on Thursday, the 21-year-old gave the Clippers fits, turning in arguably the best performance of his career in a double-overtime win. He went off for a game-high 39 points on 14-of-23 shooting and made a handful of plays on both ends of the floor that helped clinch the win.
“He was incredible,” Kemba Walker said of his All-Star teammate, according to Chris Forsberg of NBC Sports Boston. “He made every right play. He made every big shot. He was the best player on the court tonight.”
Tatum won’t be among the starters in Sunday’s All-Star game like Walker will, but the former No. 3 overall pick has emerged as the Celtics’ best all-around player this season, Forsberg argues. Tatum’s ascent is well-timed, as he’ll be extension-eligible for the first time during the 2020 offseason. Barring a major slump or injury in the second half, it’s hard to see how his next contract won’t be worth the maximum salary.
Here’s more out of Boston:
- Appearing this week on radio show Toucher & Rich, Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge said there’s nothing on the buyout market that interests the team for the time being, per Forsberg (Twitter link). That includes free agent point guard Isaiah Thomas — Ainge praised the former Celtic, but suggested the fit may not be right with Boston’s current roster, as Forsberg relays.
- Whether or not Gordon Hayward picks up his 2020/21 player option this spring, the Celtics are “very interested” in retaining the veteran forward long-term, a league source confirmed to Brian Robb of Boston Sports Journal. Hayward isn’t necessarily a lock to exercise his $34MM option, since he could command a larger overall payday on a longer-term contract.
- The Celtics announced on Thursday that they intend to retire Kevin Garnett‘s No. 5 jersey at some point next season, as Taylor Snow details at Celtics.com.