With only a handful of days to go before the start of the World Cup, four current Celtics and one former Celtic meet up in a rare trip to the Southern Hemisphere. Jayson Tatum, Kemba Walker, Jaylen Brown and a recovering Marcus Smart will square off against former Celtic Aron Baynes at Melbourne’s Marvel Stadium on August 22nd and 24th for a two-game series. Team USA will then travel to Sydney on August 26th to face Canada in the final exhibition game before heading to China for the tournament.
Aron Baynes will be sight for sore eyes suiting up in the green and gold of Australia and has stressed that this crop of Team USA players remain hungry and want to succeed. Baynes spoke early this week in an interview with ESPN, specifically of Jayson Tatum:
“He’s so talented - even from the first day I played with him when he was a rookie in his first preseason, you could see how talented he was offensively and he also wants to work on the defensive end which isn’t common in the NBA - some guys live on that offensive talent but he wants to develop his all-round game.”
Baynes also noted that playing with both Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum for the past few years, he recognized that they are both “extremely thirsty to go out and improve their game.”
Recent free agent acquisition Kemba Walker has firmly established himself as the primary ball handler in the starting five for Team USA and Marcus Smart is still recovering in time for World Cup competition. Boston fans will be looking for Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown to continue to show that consistent aggression as they did against Spain and take advantage of their athleticism to attack the paint and create off the dribble.
Jayson Tatum has been working on drawing and playing through contact this summer. Intent is to increase his scoring by being stronger with the ball and drawing more free throws. It’s usually the last part to come for a young scorer, but Tatum is on his way with adding that skill.— Keith Smith (@KeithSmithNBA) August 17, 2019
With Baynes showering his former teammates with praise, Jayson Tatum also spoke out publicly to laud the man Celtics fans know as “All of Australia” and how excited he is to play against him.
"I played with @aronbaynes for two years with the @celtics and he is one of my favorite guys to play with, favorite people. So, I'm excited to play against him for a change." - @jaytatum0 #USABMNT pic.twitter.com/hrJAGn46i6— NBA Australia (@NBA_AU) August 20, 2019
The strong relationships between the two squads don’t stop at the Celtics though. The connections spread far and wide including Team USA Coach Gregg Popovich being a great admirer of his PG Patty Mills by publicly recognising his indigenous heritage and culture. Team USA’s respect will no doubt extend to the court also, as Coach Pop will be very aware of Patty Mills’ prowess to score on and off the ball.
A pair of teammates from Utah, Joe Ingles and Donovan Mitchell will face off against one another for the first time outside of practice and as both squads have been decimated by late withdrawals, this duo will feature heavily in China. Scoring guard Donovan Mitchell joined the Jazz in the summer of 2017 just as Joe Ingles said goodbye to friend and free agent Gordon Hayward whom opted to part ways and join Boston.
Team USA’s Harrison Barnes and Boomer Andrew Bogut are long time close friends and were former roommates on the Golden State Warriors between 2012-2016 before Barnes departed to the Dallas Mavericks as a free agent. Bogut has been a stalwart performer on the international stage for Australia and tallied 10 points and 13 rebounds against Canada last Friday night in Perth before resting for the second game.
With the mass media outlets recycling stories centered around the players that are absent from these respective squads in the lead up, one can’t help but focus on the intertwined narratives of the brilliant players and coaches who made themselves available and are brought together via competition on the international stage.
With Team USA now down to 13 men, it appears certain that all four Celtics will now make the final team of twelve. As the global popularity of the NBA reaches new heights and with a bevy of Celtics star players gracing the court, we will likely see a ton of Green on Thursday and we might even hear a few “Let’s go, Celtics!!” chants ring out in the 50,000 seat venue.
PG – Kemba Walker – Patty Mills
SG – Donovan Mitchell – Matthew Dellavedova
SF – Khris Middleton – Joe Ingles
PF – Jayson Tatum – Jock Landale
C – Brook Lopez – Aron Baynes
USA – Marcus Smart (Calf - questionable), P.J. Tucker (Ankle - out, heading home)
Australia – David Barlow (Back - out)
How To Watch
USA Time- 5:30 a.m. EST, 22nd August 2019
USA TV- NBATV, NBA Twitch
Australian Time- 7:30 p.m. AEST, 22nd August 2019
Australian TV- SBS Viceland
Previous Result: Team USA 98 - Australia 88, 11th August 2016, Rio Summer Olympics