After Friday’s practice at UCLA, Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum, and Kyrie Irving engaged in a spirited 1-on-1 battle of King of the Court.
Irving tried to son them with a little Uncle Drew, “I need to school these youngins,” but the bottom line is, after months of ill-fated talking through the media and locker room gossip, Kyrie respects both Brown and Tatum. Irving said, “going against those wings, they’re two of the best in the league.” There have been rough patches in Tatum’s sophomore season and Brown’s third year, but at Game #67, both players have picked up from where they left off.
Tatum has been a steady 16 points, 6 rebounds all year as Boston’s second leading scorer. Over the last six weeks, he’s put more of a focus on getting to the rim and the line and in games like the Celtics’ win in Sacramento on Wednesday night, he’s shown that he can handle a bigger scoring burden when needed.
Before Gordon Hayward hit the game winner, Tatum was responsible for six straight points in the final ninety seconds of the nailbiter as the Celtics’ desperately clung to their lead late in the clutch.
Five days after celebrating his 21st birthday, Tatum exclaimed, “I’m not 20 no more!” after a hard drive to the rack on Irving. Not a kid anymore indeed.
Jaylen Brown was recently voted as one of the Vice Presidents of the NBPA’s Executive Committee, a role that he’s seemed destined for since entering the league three years ago. On yesterday’s episode of The Jump, Jaylen talked to Scottie Pippen about dealing with the NBA lockout in 1999 and what it takes to be a champion. That alone showed just how mature and focused Brown is about his place in the league, but maybe more importantly, he carefully dodged and avoided probing questions from Pippen, Amin Elhassan, and Rachel Nicols about the Celtics’ up and down season.
When Elhassan asked Brown about adjusting from finding success in last year’s playoff to taking a smaller role this season, Brown responded, “it’s a lot. It’s a lot. I’m not going to lie to you. Mentally, physically, everything when you just adjusted to the league, but a part of this business that we’re in is being mature and handling it the right way. So, be a professional, stuff like that. I’ve taken it and learned and actually, it’s made me a lot better as a basketball player and as a person than I expected.”
Brown has also sharpened his skills on the court, too. He’s made a concerted effort to attack the rim like Tatum and has been Boston’s best perimeter defender since February. He may not be starting, but he has been finishing games. Since the All Star break, he’s been averaging over eight minutes a game in the fourth quarter, including all twelve in each of the three-game homestand against Portland, Washington, and Houston.
There are rumors that Danny Ainge is willing to put any package together for Anthony Davis and any deal would presumably include one, if not both, of the Celtics’ prized wings. If the two continue on their current trajectory over the last few weeks and hopefully into the postseason, it’s possible that that trade could be taken off the table.