Jayson Tatum

Celtics Notes: Brown, Tatum, Finals Loss, Offseason

Although multiple Celtics players indicated in their post-game comments on Thursday night that their NBA Finals loss was a painful one, they did their best to frame their playoff run to within two games of a title as a positive experience and one they can build upon heading into next season, writes Tim Bontemps of ESPN.

“The future is bright,” Jaylen Brown said. “I always look at adversity as opportunities to shape an individual. For whatever reason, it wasn’t our time. That means we still got a lot to learn. Personally, I still got a lot to learn. For me, it’s always about growth. Continuing to get better, continuing to find different ways to lead. That’s what it’s about. The future is bright. I’m excited to get back next year.”

As Bontemps details in another ESPN story, Brown and Jayson Tatum accomplished a rare feat this season, becoming just the fourth 25-and-under duo to be the two top scorers on an NBA Finals team. Oddly, Bontemps notes, none of the other three duos (Hakeem Olajuwon and Ralph Sampson; Shaquille O’Neal and Penny Hardaway; and Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook) ever made it back to the Finals together.

Brown and Tatum will be hoping to avoid a similar fate, and Bontemps believes they’re well positioned to do so, since all of Boston’s core players are locked up for multiple seasons.

Here’s more out of Boston:

  • Head coach Ime Udoka believes the Warriors’ experience and on-court intelligence were deciding factors in the NBA Finals and sees room for the Celtics to improve in those areas. “I think the biggest part for us is the IQ section,” Udoka said, per Jay King of The Athletic. “That’s where we saw a huge difference in consistency with us and Golden State, just the little things that experience only can teach you. … A team like Golden State who has been there, done that. It was evident in a lot of ways.”
  • Jayson Tatum suffered a shoulder stinger during the Eastern Conference Finals, but declined to cite that injury as a reason for his up-and-down production (.367 FG%) in the Finals, according to Joe Vardon of The Athletic.
  • Udoka said he believes this series will go a long way toward helping Tatum adjust to being guarded like an All-NBA player going forward, Vardon writes in the same article. “This is only the start of how you’re going to be guarded and the attention you’re going to draw,” Udoka said. “I think this is the next step for him. Figuring that out, getting to where some of the veterans are that have seen everything and took their lumps early in their careers.”
  • In his Celtics offseason preview, Bobby Marks of ESPN (Insider link) acknowledges that some teams in recent years have been burned by relying on roster continuity, but argues that it wouldn’t be a mistake for Boston to do so, given that the team’s two stars still have room to improve and the right complementary pieces are in place.

Celtics Notes: Tatum, Horford, Stoudamire

Coming off another poor shooting night, Jayson Tatum understands that he needs to improve for the Celtics to win the NBA title, writes Tim Bontemps of ESPN. Tatum was 8-of-23 in the Game 4 loss and is shooting just 34% in the Finals.

“I give [the Warriors] credit,” he said. “They’re a great team. They’re playing well. They got a game plan, things like that. But it’s on me. I got to be better. I know I’m impacting the game in other ways, but I got to be more efficient, shoot the ball better, finish at the rim better. I take accountability for that.”

Tatum has been more effective as a passer than a shooter in the series, but Bontemps points out that he has 22 assists and four turnovers in Boston’s two wins, with nine assists and 10 turnovers in the two losses. Coach Ime Udoka believes Tatum is too focused on drawing fouls rather than trying to make his shots when there’s contact.

“At times he’s looking for fouls,” Udoka said. “They are a team that loads up in certain games. He’s finding the outlets. Shooting over two, three guys. That’s the balance of being aggressive and picking your spots and doing what he’s done in previous games, which is kicked it out and got wide-open looks. That’s the ongoing theme, so to speak. Him getting to the basket, being a scorer as well as a playmaker. They do a good job with their rotations. Sometimes hunting fouls instead of going to finish. I’ve seen that in a few games so far.”

There’s more on the Celtics:

  • Boston has been mentioned in trade rumors involving numerous stars in recent years, but most of those deals fell through and the Celtics were forced to build through the draft rather than trying to form a super team, notes Sopan Deb of The New York Times. As a result, they have a young roster that looks like it can be a title contender for a long time.
  • At 36, Al Horford has adopted an elder statesman role and he’s excited to see his younger teammates succeed, per Tania Ganguli of The New York Times. “They’re different, they’ve grown, they’re much better,” Horford said. “This is kind of their team. This is kind of their time, you know? And I’m just happy to be a part of it now.”
  • Celtics assistant coach Damon Stoudamire wants the team to take inspiration from a tough loss he had with the Trail Blazers 22 years ago, according to Adam Himmelsbach of The Boston Globe. Portland led the Lakers by 13 points in the fourth quarter of Game 7 of the conference finals, but the game slipped away and Stoudamire never reached the NBA Finals as a player. “This group will never get this moment back,” he said of the current Celtics team. “That’s the way I look at it. But if we win together, we’ll be entrenched together. Our group texts now as a staff, as a team, it’ll be the group texts forever. We’ll share moments as a family because we won together. That, to me, is what this is all about.”

Celtics Notes: Williams, Tatum, Brown, Horford

Celtics big man Robert Williams is battling a knee injury that has sidelined him for several playoff games and limited his effectiveness in others, but head coach Ime Udoka has maintained a desire to use Williams whenever possible, writes Jay King of The Athletic. As King outlines, the Celtics view Williams as a foundational piece and want him to be “adaptable” to a variety of matchups — the Warriors’ offense presents some unique challenges for him to figure out.

“It’s the NBA Finals and we’ve got to do what we’ve got to do to win,” Udoka said. “But this is the core group going forward, and to have the confidence to be able to figure it out with him is going to be big going forward.”

In Wednesday’s Game 3, Williams was a difference-maker on defense in the second half, registering three steals and a block during one impressive two-minute stretch and helping the Celtics limit Golden State to just 11 fourth-quarter points. The big man said his knee injury is one that would normally require more time off, but the extra days off after Games 1 and 2 have helped him, tweets Tim Bontemps of ESPN.

“I’m just trying to be accountable for my team,” Williams said, per Jared Weiss of The Athletic (Twitter link). “We made it this far. I had a discussion with myself about pushing through this, but I’m happy with how it’s going. We’ll worry about the injury at the end of the season. But for now, I’m still fighting.”

Here’s more on the Celtics:

  • As they did repeatedly during the season’s second half and in the first three rounds of the playoffs, Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown showed once again on Wednesday why the idea of breaking them up with a trade – a popular topic of speculation in the first half of 2021/22 – is one that shouldn’t come up again, writes Chris Mannix of SI.com.
  • Tatum said earlier this week that he’s not sure why the debate over whether or not he’s a true superstar has been such a common one over the last couple years, as Tim Bontemps of ESPN relays. “I’ve seen there’s a huge debate: Is he a superstar or is he not? I want to know where that came from,” Tatum said. “… It’s been a big deal this last year and a half or two years. I see it all the time. There’s always been a question in the back of my head, I wonder who spoke on my behalf or said that or why that was such a big deal.” The Celtics forward added that he’s more concerned about winning a title than determining his individual standing in the NBA: “If you win a championship, they can debate a lot of things. They can’t debate whether or not you’re a champion.”
  • In a separate story for ESPN, Bontemps takes an in-depth look at Al Horford‘s 15-year journey to his first NBA Finals and what the veteran big man means to the Celtics.

Celtics Notes: Tatum, R. Williams, Smart, White

Jayson Tatum hasn’t forgotten the feeling of being passed over by the Lakers in the 2017 draft — or that the Celtics almost didn’t take him either, according to Ramona Shelburne and Elizabeth Merrill of ESPN. Tatum, who has become the biggest star among that year’s draft class, grew up as a Lakers fan and still offers subtle tributes to Kobe Bryant. L.A. owned the No. 2 pick, but was focused on Lonzo Ball, ending Tatum’s hopes of wearing purple and gold.

“The Lakers were my favorite team, and Kobe was my favorite player,” Tatum said. “So it was crazy that the Lakers had the second pick and I was so close to a dream come true. But it was just like they didn’t want anything to do with me at the time.”

Tatum had a strong pre-draft workout for Boston, which owned the top pick. Danny Ainge, who ran the Celtics at the time, had planned to take Markelle Fultz, but Fultz shot poorly at his workout and didn’t seem fully healthy, so Ainge traded down and grabbed Tatum at No. 3.

“After my workout, I remember one of the [Boston] scouts came up to me and said, ‘That was a great workout. I’m excited for you. But we got the No. 1 pick, so we’re not going to pick you,'” Tatum recalled. “He still works for the Celtics now, so I f— with him all the time.”

There’s more from Boston:

  • Robert Williams has earned a new level of respect by playing in pain throughout the postseason, per Jay King of The Athletic. Williams has come a long way since college, when there were questions surrounding his work ethic and maturity level. “Rob has made huge jumps,” teammate Jaylen Brown said. “Not just in his game, but just the mental game. Just being able to be consistent, being able to be solid, being able to be available. And a lot of that comes from confidence. A lot of that comes from self belief, inner belief.” Williams was listed as questionable for tonight’s Game 3, but he’ll be in the starting lineup, tweets Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe.
  • Marcus Smart tells Steve Bulpett of Heavy that the Celtics are stronger because of the trials they experienced during their 18-21 start. “We definitely made it hard on ourselves,” Smart said. “But, you know, we always hear the saying: if you want something great, it’s never gonna be easy to achieve it. So, you know, we take that full head-on as a team, we accept it and we ride with it.”
  • After being traded to Boston by the Spurs, Derrick White found a lot of similarities in the system run by Ime Udoka, who was a former assistant in San Antonio, but he said the Celtics place more emphasis on physicality, Grant Afseth writes for Sports Illustrated“In San Antonio, we had a lot of emphasis on not fouling,” White said. “To keep them [opponents] off the line. Obviously, they don’t want dumb fouls here, but I’m just trying to be more physical. Just little things like that.”

Celtics Notes: Tatum, R. Williams, Smart, Theis

It takes more than one bad shooting night to shake Jayson Tatum‘s confidence, writes Tim Bontemps of ESPN. Meeting with the media following today’s practice, the Celtics star said he won’t change anything about his approach after shooting just 3-of-17 in Game 1.

“Once you’ve done something before, you know how to respond,” Tatum said. “I’ve had some bad shooting nights in the NBA. So it’s like, ‘I’ve been here before.’ I know what to do next game. I think a lot of it is mental. You don’t let it creep into your mind. I can’t do nothing about what happened last game. I missed those shots and it is what it is. It’s all about how to prepare and get ready for the next one.”

Even though Tatum was misfiring, Boston still put 120 points on the board and he was able to contribute 13 assists. That may have worked on Thursday night, but Tatum understands that the Celtics will need consistent scoring from him to win the series.

“Obviously, I know I’ve got to play better,” he said. “I can’t shoot like that every game and hopefully we win. I expect to play better shooting-wise, but just impacting the game in different ways to do my part and let’s get a win. I will continue to do that. Just read the game, read each play. That’s how I kind of approach next game.”

There’s more 0n the Celtics:

  • Robert Williams is being listed as questionable for Sunday night’s Game 2 with soreness in his left knee, tweets Substack contributor Marc Stein. Williams, who has been hampered by injuries throughout the playoffs, started at center and played more than 24 minutes in Game 1 after being deemed questionable.
  • The Celtics’ relentlessness helped them overcome a 12-point deficit heading into the fourth quarter of the series opener, observes Souichi Terada of MassLive. Marcus Smart describes himself as a “lion out on the prowl hunting” in his approach to matching up with the Warriors. “Playing against a team that’s been here and knows what it takes, and they’re the hunted,” Smart said. “We’re the hunters right now. We’re trying to get to their level and get to where they’re at. So for me, I’m just out, I’m stealth, I’m waiting for my time to strike and my opportunity.”
  • Daniel Theis credits the Celtics’ midseason turnaround to having so many players who are comfortable with their contract situations, per Brian Robb of MassLive. After Theis and Derrick White were acquired at the trade deadline, Boston’s top 10 rotation players all had multiyear deals. “Everybody now, almost everybody on his team got a long-term contract and like is secured in a way that they can just focus on winning,” Theis said, “like, it’s not like, ‘Oh, I’m in my contract year, I got to put the numbers up.'”

Jayson Tatum Wins Larry Bird Trophy As Eastern Finals MVP

Following the Celtics‘ dramatic victory over the Heat in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals on Sunday, Jayson Tatum was named the Most Valuable Player of the series, making him the first-ever winner of the Larry Bird Trophy, according to the league (Twitter press release).

The NBA introduced the award earlier this month in an effort to honor the players who played crucial roles in leading their teams to the Finals. Last week, Warriors star Stephen Curry became the first player to win the Magic Johnson Trophy award as the MVP of the Western Conference Finals.

Tatum averaged 25.0 points, 8.3 rebounds, and 5.6 assists per game over the course of the seven-game series vs. Miami, playing big minutes (40.8 MPG) and putting up a shooting line of .462/.353/.860. He only had one poor performance in the series, when he scored just 10 points on 3-of-14 shooting and turned the ball over six times in Game 3. He scored at least 22 points in the other six games.

The award was voted on by nine local and national media members who were covering the series. Tatum earned eight of nine votes, with Heat star Jimmy Butler receiving the only other vote, from ESPN’s Tim Bontemps.

Butler averaged 25.6 PPG, 7.0 RPG, 3.4 APG, and 2.0 SPG, and looked like the best player on the court in several games of the series — he was limited by a knee injury and scored just 27 total points from Games 3 to 5, but averaged 38.0 PPG in Games 1, 2, 6, and 7. He likely would’ve been the unanimous MVP pick if Miami had won the series.

Tatum will look to carry over his Eastern Finals success into the NBA Finals vs. the Warriors. The series will tip off in Golden State on Thursday — the full schedule can be found right here.

And-Ones: Seattle, Las Vegas, Expansion, Baker, Tatum

The NBA may have earmarked Seattle and Las Vegas as potential expansion locations. According to John Canzano of 750 The Game, the league is eyeing both cities if it adds expansion teams, though no further details have been made available. Canzano made his comments on Seattle radio station 93.3 KJR (Twitter link).

It’s worth noting that a similar report was shot down by the league in March, as Chris Daniels of King5.com wrote at the time. However, several players and league officials hold Seattle in high regard, and Las Vegas is currently used by the NBA for its annual summer league, which will be held July 7-17 this year.

Here are some other odds and ends from the basketball universe:

  • The Thunder have received a summer league commitment from Robert Baker, his agent Jerry Dianis told Hoops Rumors. Baker, a 6’10” forward, played with the Kings’ G League affiliate this year. The 23-year-old also played collegiately at Harvard from 2017-20.
  • Celtics star Jayson Tatum would like to see some changes to the All-NBA Team voting, per ESPN’s Tim Bontemps. Tatum received All-NBA First Team honors, but he was left off last year’s three teams — costing him tens of millions on his current deal, as Bontemps notes. Among Tatum’s adjustments would be making the teams positionless. He used Joel Embiid as an example, since Embiid finished second in Most Valuable Player voting this season, but was relegated to the All-NBA Second Team because the MVP winner, Nuggets center Nikola Jokic, made the First Team. Tatum also voiced his concerns about the process back in February.

2021/2022 All-NBA Teams Announced

The 2021/22 All-NBA teams have officially been announced by the NBA. For the fourth straight season, Bucks All-Star forward Giannis Antetokounmpo was unanimously selected to the All-NBA First Team by a voter panel of 100 media members. Antetokounmpo, 27, is making his sixth All-NBA team overall.

Antetokounmpo, reigning MVP Nuggets center Nikola Jokic, and Mavericks point guard Luka Doncic received the most votes. Suns All-Star shooting guard Devin Booker and Sixers All-Star center Joel Embiid rounded out the list of top five vote-getters. Because the All-NBA teams, unlike the All-Star squads, require just one center per team, Embiid was relegated to an All-NBA Second Team placing.

Below is a list of the three All-NBA teams. Vote tallies are listed in parentheses next to player names. Five points were awarded to players for a First Team Vote, three points netted for a Second Team vote, and one for a Third Team vote. Antetokounmpo earned a perfect 500 points.

All-NBA First Team

All-NBA Second Team

All-NBA Third Team

Jazz center Rudy Gobert and shooting guard Donovan Mitchell, Heat center Bam Adebayo and small forward Jimmy Butler, Celtics swingman Jaylen Brown, Bucks guards Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday, Grizzlies shooting guard Desmond Bane, Suns small forward Mikal Bridges, Spurs point guard Dejounte Murray, and Raptors point guard Fred VanVleet all received All-NBA votes. Surprisingly, Nets point guard Kyrie Irving, who played in just 29 games this season, also received a single vote.

As we previously outlined, the All-NBA selections come with significant financial ramifications. As a result of being named to All-NBA teams, Booker and Towns have become eligible for super-max extensions that would begin in 2024/25. If they’re signed this offseason, those deals would be for four years and would start at 35% of the ’24/25 cap. According to Bobby Marks of ESPN (via Twitter), they currently project to be worth $211MM apiece.

Young’s five-year contract extension, which was signed last August and will go into effect in 2022/23, will now be worth 30% of next season’s cap instead of 25% by virtue of his All-NBA selection. Based on a projected $122MM cap, that means it’ll be worth about $212MM instead of $177MM.

Jokic had already met the super-max requirements prior to this announcement, since he won last year’s MVP award — he’s eligible to sign a five-year, super-max extension this offseason and has said he plans to do so. Doncic, who signed a maximum-salary contract extension last summer, also previously met the super-max criteria by earning All-NBA nods in 2020 and 2021.

Notable players who are not eligible this offseason for super-max deals include Morant and Bulls shooting guard Zach LaVine. As Marks tweets, Morant needs to make the All-NBA team again in 2023 to qualify for a starting salary worth 30% of the cap (instead of 25%) on his next deal.

LaVine, a free agent this offseason, would have been eligible to earn up to 35% of next season’s cap from the Bulls if he had made an All-NBA team, but will instead be able to earn no more than 30% of the ’22/23 cap on his next contract.

With their inclusions, Morant, Booker, and Young are making their All-NBA team debuts. Meanwhile, on the other side of the NBA aging curve, two 37-year-old veterans further cemented their Hall of Fame credentials during the 2021/22 season. James made his 18th All-NBA team, while Paul was named to his 11th All-NBA team.

Heat’s Butler, Celtics’ Williams Questionable For Game 4

Heat star Jimmy Butler (knee inflammation) and Celtics center Robert Williams III (knee soreness) are both listed as questionable for Game 4 on Monday night, according to the teams’ injury reports.

According to Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports, Butler plans to play. He missed the second half of Game 3 due to the injury, while Williams missed the entire contest.

The Heat are also listing Tyler Herro (groin strain), Kyle Lowry (hamstring strain), Max Strus (hamstring strain), P.J. Tucker (knee irritation) and Gabe Vincent (hamstring strain) as questionable.

In addition, the Celtics have listed Marcus Smart (right ankle sprain) as questionable and Jayson Tatum (right cervical nerve impingement) as probable to play.

Smart and Tatum suffered their injuries during Game 3, leaving the court momentarily before returning a short time later. Miami has been listing Lowry, Tucker, Vincent and Strus on its injury report for quite some time, though Tucker suffered his knee injury this series. He was previously dealing with a calf strain.

Despite missing Butler in the second half, Miami held on to win Game 3 and take a 2-1 series lead. Boston also missed Williams, one of the league’s best interior defenders, as Bam Adebayo finished with 31 points. A Boston win on Monday would tie the series 2-2, while a loss would mean the Celtics have to head back to Miami facing a 3-1 deficit and possible elimination in Game 5 on Wednesday.

Celtics Notes: G. Williams, Brown, Udoka, Tatum

Thrust into a starting role in Game 4 of the Celtics‘ series vs. Milwaukee after Robert Williams went down with another knee injury, Grant Williams scored just 11 total points on 3-of-15 shooting in his first three starts. However, the team’s faith in him was rewarded on Sunday when he remained in the starting lineup for a fourth straight game even with Robert Williams reactivated.

Grant Williams made the Bucks pay for focusing their defensive attention on other Celtics players, launching 18 attempts from beyond the arc and making seven of them. Those seven 3-pointers were a career high, as were his 27 points, while his 39:20 of game time was a personal playoff best. A plus-25 in the Celtics’ series-clinching victory, Williams said after the game that his teammates were encouraging him not to hesitate when he had open looks.

“(Jaylen Brown freaked out) on me for not shooting. ‘Shoot it, shoot the first one. We know that’s a shot you can make and we won’t get mad at you for shooting it,'” Williams told Jared Weiss of The Athletic. “So they were just like, ‘Shoot it, we’re sick of you passing it up.’ I was like, ‘All right, cool.’ They gave me permission, so I tried letting them fly.”

Williams has been a rotation player in Boston all season long, but his emergence as a starter and a key cog who can play defense and hit open shots is coming at exactly the right time — the 23-year-old will be eligible for a rookie scale extension this offseason.

Here’s more on the Celtics, who are headed to the Eastern Conference Finals for the fourth time in the last six years:

  • Jaylen Brown earned another contract bonus on Sunday when the team reached the Eastern Conference Finals, pocketing an extra $321,429, tweets ESPN’s Bobby Marks. According to Marks, that bonus would be voided if Boston makes the NBA Finals and would be replaced by a new bonus worth about three times as much ($964,286).
  • The Celtics, who were under .500 in January, have found their identity amid their run to the Eastern Finals, according to Chris Forsberg of NBC Sports Boston, who takes a closer look at the role each of the club’s primary rotation pieces has played in the second-half and postseason surge.
  • Ime Udoka finished outside of the top three in Coach of the Year voting, but the work the first-time head coach has done to lead the Celtics to the Eastern Finals can’t be overstated, as Adam Himmelsbach of The Boston Globe details. For a first-year coach, it’s almost — I feel like it’s unheard of. His level of poise, his level of confidence never changed,” Brown said. “Even when we were down 2-1, or when we were down 3-2, you could tell, the look in his eyes that we were going to win this series. We just needed to handle our business and sometimes you can get in those moments and go away from everything, or start to make over-adjustments. And he didn’t.”
  • Jayson Tatum has “cracked the code for true NBA superstardom,” according to Chad Finn of The Boston Globe, who examines how the fifth-year forward’s poise and play-making is making his teammates better.