Jayson Tatum

Jayson Tatum On Trade Rumors: “I Must Be Doing Something Well”

After Friday’s win over the Pacers, the Celtics have a commanding 3-0 series lead and seem poised to advance to the Eastern Conference semifinals. As the Celtics aim for an NBA championship, the possibilities of the upcoming offseason loom large.

Youngster Jayson Tatum, in his second season with the Celtics, has been mentioned as a potential centerpiece for an Anthony Davis trade this summer. It’s obvious why the Pelicans would want an athletic 21-year-old who set career-bests in PPG (15.7), RPG (6.0), APG, (2.1) and MPG (31.1).

Sopan Deb of the New York Times writes that Tatum does not take the rumors personally and actually views them as a positive based on his abilities.

“Trade rumors don’t bother me,” Tatum said.“They’re talking about trading me for guys like Anthony Davis. So, I mean, I must be doing something pretty well.”

Tatum will not need to worry about being traded for the next few months, at least. After all, the Pelicans named David Griffin the new executive vice president of basketball operations and it remains to be seen how he handles Davis’ likely departure. If and when that time comes, Tatum said he will suit up for whichever team’s roster he’s on.

“I love the game of basketball,” Tatum said. “Being traded is part of the game. I’ll play for whomever. It’s something I can’t control.”

Celtics Notes: Grizzlies’ Pick, Smart, Injuries, Irving

The Celtics’ front office hopes the first-round pick the Grizzlies owe them doesn’t convey this year, Adam Himmelsbach of the Boston Globe tweets. The pick is top-8 protected and the Celtics “really” don’t want it this June, a source told Himmelsbach. The pick is top-6 protected next year and has no protections in 2021. The illusion of a potential top-three pick makes it more valuable as a bargaining chip in trades, Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated tweets.

We have more on the Celtics:

  • Marcus Smart‘s health is a concern heading into the playoffs. He suffered a strained oblique against the Magic on Sunday, Tim Bontemps of ESPN reports. The combo guard is averaging 8.8 PPG, 4.0 APG and 1.8 SPG in 27.5 MPG this season.  Jayson Tatum suffered a left shin contusion in the game.
  • Coach Brad Stevens will have to get creative with his rotation in the final regular-season game against Washington on Tuesday. The team’s PR department lists seven prominent players as out, one questionable and two others probable, Bontemps tweets.
  • Wins like the blowout victory over Indiana on Friday that locked up home-court advantage in the first round will make it more difficult for Kyrie Irving to leave in free agency, A. Sherrod Blakely of NBC Sports Boston writes. While Irving is difficult to read, multiple Celtics have told Blakely that the point guard’s confidence and faith in his younger teammates has never wavered. “It doesn’t always come out right, what he says, but he’s got our back,” one unnamed teammate said.

Celtics Notes: Tatum, Irving, Grousbeck, Baynes, Horford

Former Celtic Paul Pierce believes Jayson Tatum would reach his All-Star potential if he drove to the basket more often, as he told Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald.

“For a guy with his athleticism, his skill set and his ball-handling, his height, he should be a guy that gets to the line at least six times a night and makes five out of six,” Pierce said. “That’ll take him from a 16-point scorer to a 20-point scorer, and he’ll be in the conversation for All-Star every year on a winning team.”

Pierce also believes Tatum won’t fully blossom until he’s relied upon as a primary scorer.

“Look at James Harden,” he said. “We didn’t know James Harden was going to be this until he went to Houston. He was the sixth man on OKC. Now he’s a perennial MVP and arguably the best player in the league.”

We have more on the Celtics:

  • Kyrie Irving’s decision in free agency could be decided by how the postseason plays out, Bulpett speculates in the same article. While events during the season have seemingly tilted the odds in favor of Irving signing elsewhere, that could change if the team makes a deep run, Bulpett adds.
  • Danny Ainge attributed a seemingly critical comment by Irving against the coaching staff as frustration after a loss. Charlotte’s Kemba Walker scored 36 points against Boston in a recent loss and Irving said they should have trapped Walker more often. Ainge’s response came on a radio interview with 98.5 The Sports Hub’s “Toucher & Rich” and was relayed by Darren Hartwell of NBC Sports Boston“I did hear (Irving’s comments). It’s not that uncommon,” the GM said. “Guys get frustrated, and maybe that was the first thing that came to his mind is, ‘We should have done something different with Kemba.'”
  • Owner Wyc Grousbeck believes the team can flip the switch during the postseason, he told Adam Himmelsbach of the Boston Globe. Grousbeck admits the team has underachieved but still believes better days are ahead. “We have not played at an elite level this year,” Grousbeck said. “We have to admit that at the moment. We’re in fifth place in the East. It’d be great to take that step now, or we’ll try to take it next year if we have to. But what I’m seeing, with the playoffs around the corner, I’m going to go into the playoffs with good energy and optimism and seeing what happens.”
  • Pairing Al Horford and Aron Baynes can give the Celtics more toughness inside but it would only work against certain lineups, as coach Brad Stevens explains to NBC Sports Boston’s Chris Forsberg“With their size and length, I think we have a different impact at the rim. But when you’re playing a team that’s super small and spread out, that’s tough to guard when you have a more traditional lineup.”

And-Ones: NBA Execs Poll, Mourning, Reid, Gray

Various NBA executives and coaches were polled this month by Tim Bontemps of ESPN, questioned on which sophomore player they’d rather have: Ben Simmons, Donovan Mitchell, Jayson Tatum or De’Aaron Fox.

All four players are considered to be among the league’s best young talent, but ranking the players is tougher than what it seems. The polling from the ESPN article largely echoed the results of the 2018 Rookie of the Year Award race, with Simmons ranking first, Mitchell second, Tatum third, and Fox fourth. Simmons received as many first-place votes (nine) as the other three players did combined.

“Simmons is in his own class,” an Eastern Conference executive told Bontemps, “because of his size and passing ability, plus his defense. Having the ability to control the game at both ends is really valuable.”

Of the four players, Simmons is the only talent without a reliable jumpshot. The thought of him one day having a consistent jumper — in addition to his already mesmerizing passing, rebounding and driving abilities — could strike fear in teams around the league.

However, not all of those polled agreed with Simmons being one of the top choices of the four players.

“Simmons doesn’t shoot,” one West executive said. “If you’re a championship-caliber team, non-shooters can’t be on the floor.”

“He’s really f—ing good,” another said. “But where do you play him?”

Here are some more odds and ends from around the basketball world:

  • NBA legend Alonzo Mourning is among 11 world class basketball personalities that make up FIBA Hall of Fame’s 2019 class of inductees, FIBA announced this week. Mourning joins Janeth Arcain (Brazil), Bogdan Tanjevic (Montenegro) and others to be inducted, having helped Team USA win the FIBA Basketball World Cup in 1994. He also went on to help win a gold medal at the Sydney Olympics in 2000.
  • LSU expects to lose 19-year-old forward Naz Reid for the NBA Draft this spring, Adam Zagoria of Zagsblog.com writes. “Yeah, we’re expecting to lose him,” LSU assistant Greg Heiar admitted last week. “If you’re a top-20 pick in the draft, you need to go. You need to go. It’s what his dream is so we want him to chase his dream. You never want to hold a young man back.” Along with Reid, another LSU player who could garner professional interest in the coming months is Tremont Waters, an improved 5’11” point guard with impressive handles and court vision.
  • Free agent Rob Gray has agreed to a deal in France with JL Bourg, according to Sportando. Gray started the 2018/19 season with Fort Wayne in the NBA G League, with their campaign officially coming to an end this past week. Gray played summer league and later joined the Rockets for training camp last fall, getting waived before the season began.

Celtics Notes: Williams, Irving, Stevens, Hunter

The Celtics are dealing with another injured center after rookie Robert Williams took a hard fall onto his back in last night’s game, writes Darren Hartwell of NBC Sports Boston. Making his first career start because of injuries to Al Horford and Aron Baynes, Williams left the game with a back contusion in the second quarter.

“I’m guessing we’re looking at a Jaylen (Brown) time frame from this year, at least,” coach Brad Stevens said. Brown suffered a similar injury last March and missed six games. Boston has nine games left, so it’s possible that Williams won’t return until the playoffs. Jayson Tatum also fell on his back last night, but his injury appears to be less severe.

Losing Williams could affect the Celtics’ plans for their open roster spot. There was a report Friday night that they would be signing Greg Monroe to a 10-day contract, but when that didn’t happen yesterday, there were suggestions that the opening might go to Thomas Robinson, who joined the organization’s G League affiliate last week. If Williams is out for the rest of the season, that might tip the scales back in favor of Monroe.

There’s more this morning out of Boston:

  • Kyrie Irving appeared to take another swipe at his young teammates, saying the Celtics need to be “more mature down the stretch” after blowing an 18-point fourth quarter lead in a loss to the Hornets, relays A. Sherrod Blakely of NBC Sports Boston. Irving, who has been outspoken about the difficulties of being a veteran leader on a young team, also questioned Stevens’ approach to handling Kemba Walker, who scored 18 fourth quarter points to lead the comeback. “We should have probably trapped him more like every other team does in the league but we didn’t,” Irving said. “He torches us every time we play them, so it’s no surprise.”
  • Before Saturday’s meltdown, Stevens indicated rotation changes could be coming, Blakely adds in a separate story. He told his players that “toughness” will determine who plays in the postseason. “We are in evaluation stage on who’s reliable,” Stevens said. “… If you don’t have that reliability; if you don’t have that toughness. If you don’t have the ability to move on to what’s next, you don’t last very long.”
  • R.J. Hunter hasn’t taken the court for Boston since signing a two-way contract in January, but he believes he’s a mentally stronger player than when he was drafted by the team in 2015. He talks about that aspect of the game an interview tweeted by the Celtics.

Atlantic Notes: Russell, Raptors, Tatum, Brown, Knicks

Nets guard D’Angelo Russell claims he’s moved on from his exit with the Lakers, now focused on leading his team to the playoffs this spring, Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News writes. The Lakers made a surprising move by trading Russell and center Timofey Mozgov to Brooklyn in 2017, bringing in Brook Lopez and the rights to Kyle Kuzma.

“I don’t think there’s anything else to be said from my part,” Russell said, according to Bondy. “Whatever y’all decide to cook up. Whatever quote y’all take, expand on it, good luck with it. But I don’t have any extra emotion.”

Russell was named to his first ever NBA All-Star team this season, rapidly improving as a point guard with per-game averages of 20.2 points and 6.8 assists. His 43% shooting mark from the floor and 36% mark from 3-point range are also career-highs.

Russell has guided the Nets to a 36-34 record through 70 games, good for the sixth best record in the Eastern Conference. The Lakers, of course, wound up drafting Lonzo Ball to fill in for Russell as starting point guard. Los Angeles will host Brooklyn next Friday at Staples Center.

There’s more out of the Atlantic Division tonight:

  • The Raptors‘ success this year largely depends on what the bench can accomplish, Doug Smith of the Toronto Star writes. Jeremy [Lin], Norm [Powell], OG [Anunoby], Patrick McCaw. What can they give us defensively, first and foremost, and then what can they limit mistake-wise offensively?” coach Nick Nurse said. “That’s what OG has done. He’s been pretty out of the way, mistake-free, made a few shots, made a few cuts gotten on the glass. Patrick McCaw, the same. I kind of like the decisions that Jeremy has made. He just hasn’t made enough of his shots. And Norman, we’ve got to limit the turnovers with that unit.”
  • The Celtics‘ young stars in Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown are settling into their respective roles just in time, Tim Bontemps of ESPN.com writes. “We know what we’re capable of, and we were close to getting to the championship [last year],” Tatum said. “Now we’re trying to get over that hump and get there.” Boston badly needs the production from Tatum and Brown if they want to compete for a championship, with the team currently holding the fifth seed in the East one month before the playoffs.
  • Sam Vecenie of The Athletic examines where the Knicks stand entering the offseason, which includes June’s NBA Draft and the start of free agency in July. In addition to having a solid young core, the team will own a high-level draft pick and significant cap space to pursue star free agents on the open market.

Celtics Notes: A. Davis, Irving, Tatum

When he was interviewed in Charlotte this past weekend about his list of preferred destinations, Anthony Davis said that the Celtics are on that list: “I never said they weren’t on my list.”

However, Davis subsequently added that all 29 teams outside of New Orleans are on his list, which somewhat diminished the impact of him specifically including Boston. Now, Shams Charania of The Athletic and Stadium (video link) is reporting that the C’s may not really be on Davis’ short list.

“I’m still told his four-team list of the Lakers, Clippers, Knicks, [and] Bucks still exists in that order,” Charania said. “… There are a couple other teams – undisclosed right now – that he would also consider. The Celtics, I’m told, are still not a long-term destination for him in his mind. Where the Celtics stand has not changed despite what Anthony Davis said over the weekend.”

It’s hard to know exactly what to make of Davis’ comments at All-Star Weekend – which were a little all over the place, as Sean Deveney of Sporting News outlines – and Charania’s latest report. The long-term appeal of the Celtics for Davis will likely hinge in large part on whether or not Kyrie Irving sticks around, so AD’s camp might be hedging its bets to prepare for either outcome.

In any case, Davis’ wish list may ultimately not matter a whole lot, as the Pelicans plan to negotiate with any team that wants to get involved in the offseason — not just the four teams Davis views as potential long-term homes.

Here’s more on the Celtics:

  • In a conversation with ESPN’s Rachel Nichols (video link), Kyrie Irving spoke about the Celtics’ up-and-down season, his phone call to LeBron James, and whether his upcoming free agency is a distraction. He was also asked whether he agreed with Marcus Morris‘ contention that it hasn’t been a “fun” season in Boston. “It’s been a trying year for us,” Irving said. “We basically have a bunch of young men in our locker room that feel like they’re capable of doing a lot more than what they’re doing. And that’s okay. But there’s a maturity that you have to have, there’s a professionalism that you have to really showcase every single day, and that’s what the great ones do.”
  • A major player in those Davis trade rumors, Jayson Tatum told ESPN at All-Star weekend that he’d like to play for the Celtics for his entire NBA career. In order to achieve that goal, he may have to prove his value in the coming months, showing why Danny Ainge and the C’s shouldn’t include him in an offer for AD, writes Chris Forsberg of NBC Sports Boston.
  • In a separate story for NBC Sports Boston, Forsberg makes the case that the 2018/19 Celtics are a legit contender worthy of fans’ complete attention — even if offseason speculation about Irving, Davis, and the team’s future seems more exciting at the moment.

Atlantic Notes: Knicks, Marks, Tatum, Irving

The Knicks need to keep on tanking to assure themselves a top five pick in the draft, Steve Popper of Newsday argues. The team with the worst record can’t fall any lower than the fifth pick under the new draft lottery rules, Popper notes, and the Suns currently hold that distinction after New York ended its 18-game losing streak. After the top five players, including Duke’s trio of Zion Williamson, R.J. Barrett and Cam Reddish, there’s an apparent dropoff in talent. The team with the second-worst record has a 20% chance of falling to the No. 6 slot, Popper adds.

We have more from around the Atlantic Division:

  • The Nets have made so much progress over the last three seasons under GM Sean Marks that they’re in play for top-level free agents, Brian Lewis of the New York Post writes. Brooklyn has turned into a playoff-caliber team under Marks’ guidance. “Things surrounding the team probably look a lot more attractive to the outside,” Marks told Lewis. “We’re a more attractive destination. The young guys we know are going to be Nets for the foreseeable future, we’re proud of their development and that’s a pretty good foundation. People have taken notice and said, ‘Hey, I [could] play with that group.”
  • Boston hasn’t played like champions most of the season but one of its young stars says they’ll end up with the Larry O’Brien trophy. Jayson Tatum declared to ESPN’s Rachel Nichols (hat tip to Nick Goss of NBC Sports Boston) that the Celtics are going all the way. “We’re gonna win the Finals this year,” Tatum said. “Feb. 16, Jayson Tatum says (the Celtics) are going to win the Finals this year.”
  • Kyrie Irving agreed to some extent with Marcus Morris‘ criticism shortly before the All-Star break that the Celtics weren’t playing hard enough or having enough fun, Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald relays. Boston won its last two games before the break after Morris’ comments. “Well, I mean, there was some truth into it,” Irving said. “You know, we obviously understand that we have a lot of talent in our locker room, so it’s been a lot to manage. But we’ve come out pretty successful — obviously not as successful as we would like to be, but that’s just overall the attitude that you have to have in order to win in this league.”

Celtics Notes: Tatum, Irving, Draft Picks

Jayson Tatum has heard his name in trade rumors a lot lately, but he’s accepting it as part of life in the NBA, writes A. Sherrod Blakely of NBC Sports Boston. Tatum is considered a key figure in the Celtics‘ push to acquire Anthony Davis, and although rumors have quieted somewhat with the passing of the trade deadline, they are sure to ramp up again this summer.

“I get asked that question a lot,” Tatum said about the trade talk. “And my response is always the same; control what I can control, I don’t take it personal. I understood coming in that it is a business. They have to make the best decision for them, whatever that may be. Especially right now; I can’t control it.”

Tatum’s on-court performance hasn’t suffered in the wake of the rumors, as Blakely points out that his stats have remained constant since Davis’ trade request became public. Showing star potential at age 20, Tatum may be in Davis’ position some day, but for now he is on the second season of a four-year rookie contract and has no control over where he plays.

“You learn pretty quickly that when you are under contract, you don’t have too much say-so,” he added.

There’s more from Boston this morning:

  • During All-Star media events Saturday, LeBron James spoke further about his phone call with Kyrie Irving last month, relays Chelsea Howard of The Sporting News. Irving called James to apologize for some of the things he did in Cleveland and said he understands the situation better now that he is a veteran leader with the Celtics. “I think I’ve always loved Kyrie, from before I met him, until when I became his teammate, to even now,” James said. “So the phone call, more than for me, I think just to see his growth … It takes a real man and a real person — and a real person to understand who they are — to be able to call, or to do anything and be able to see their wrongdoings or believe they have some wrongdoings.”
  • If Irving decides to leave Boston, he could affect the fate of several teams, notes Danny Leroux of The Athletic. The Celtics would lose one of their top talents and their best hope of signing Davis to a long-term deal if they do acquire him in a trade. The Knicks, Lakers and Clippers all have room to make a major impact in free agency and might welcome Irving if he becomes available.
  • Darren Hartwell of NBC Sports Boston checks on the status the three first-round picks the Celtics could be owed this summer and finds that two of them may not convey. The Grizzlies’ choice is top-eight protected, while the Clippers’ selection will only be moved if they make the playoffs.

Pelicans Notes: Davis, Holiday, Tatum

Chatter surrounding the Pelicans sitting Anthony Davis for the rest of the season resulted in the league informing the franchise that there would be consequences if the All-Star doesn’t play, sources tell Brian Windhorst of ESPN.com. The NBA referenced the rules put in place two seasons ago restricting teams from resting healthy players. The Pelicans were told the fine would be $100K for every game that Davis sat.

New Orleans’ front office met with Davis after the trade deadline passed to discuss the plan for the rest of the season. Davis expressed his desire to play as many games as possible as the season winds down. The team decided it would act “ethically” and give Davis the role he had prior to his latest injury with a few caveats.

Davis will not play in back-to-backs and it’s possible that his minutes could be reduced. Davis will get to choose which end of the back-to-back he will play for the remainder of the season, sources tell Windhorst. After tonight’s tilt with Minnesota, the team has 26 games remaining.

Here’s more from New Orleans:

  • Will the Celtics offer Jayson Tatum to the Pelicans in exchange for Davis over the summer? Sean Deveney of Sporting News confirms previous reports indicating while Boston has made no promises, the Pelicans were left with the impression that Tatum will be on the table in future trade talks.
  • The Celtics were upset about the news of Kyrie Irving‘s level of interest in New York as they feel the story was planted by Davis’ agent in an attempt to deter the team from being comfortable with promising a haul to the Pelicans for Davis. “It was cheap and underhanded,” a source tells Deveney.
  • The Pelicans are expected to watch Kevin Knox, Frank Ntilikina and Dennis Smith Jr. closely over the remainder of the season, Zach Lowe of ESPN.com writes. Lowe contends that the Knicks will need the Pelicans to increase their interest in at least one of their prospects if they don’t land the No. 1 pick and are going to have a chance at trading for Davis this summer.
  • Jrue Holiday has no interest in being on a lottery-bound team and if the Pelicans eventually trade Davis, his level of content will depend on what comes back in the trade, Lowe adds in the same piece.