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Stepbacks: Tatum, team chemistry, and a peek ahead

Quick hit thoughts launched from long distance.

Houston Rockets v Boston Celtics Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

I decided to brand this semi-regular column (meaning whenever I want to write them) of quick hit bullet points and scattered thoughts. It took a long time to decide on what to name this. Like, I spent whole minutes on it. I ended up picking “Stepbacks” because they are quick, solo, and well, sometimes they are just heat checks that you toss up there and see if they hit the mark. Also, they remind me of Jayson Tatum so that’s always good.

I will now stop writing about myself because that’s against some unwritten rules about writing.


  • Tatum, Tatum, Tatum - all the attention is on Tatum! By all accounts it seems that his teammates are cool with that. Not everyone would be, but perhaps recent history has informed their actions to a certain extent. Holdovers from last year don’t need to be reminded of how things can go sideways. Kemba Walker is just ecstatic to have great teammates. Gordon Hayward has been through too much to worry about ego. It sounds odd, but we’ve got a little bit of the “KG and Ray were willing to defer to win a title” kind of vibe and this time around 2 of the primary players are in their early 20’s.
  • One more Tatum thought: He’s about 2 months away from getting so much adoration that the haters come out and try to tear him down. It started on some level last year because people saw flaws in his game. He’s largely fixed those flaws and gotten the accolades he deserves. It just doesn’t take long for the sports community to see the latest rising star and turn them into a target.
  • Would it have been better for this season to add a player at the trade deadline that could have helped push this team to another level? Yup. Hard to say, however, what deals Ainge should have made without knowing what the cost would have been.
  • Many (myself included) would have been tempted to “throw in” a guy like Romeo Langford to make salaries work on a short term benefit trade. Many of those same people (myself included) would be the ones to lament Ainge losing a guy with high upside as he develops over the next few years. We are often rearview mirror 20/20 like that.
  • I’m still sad about Isaiah Thomas. He went from legit top 3 MVP candidate to “we don’t want to cut Javonte Green to open up a spot for him.” That’s a tough, tough, tough fall and I really wish it would have turned out better for him. Probably the right call for the Celtics to roll with their current crew this year, but I’m not going to give up hope to eventually see IT back in green in some way.
  • Speaking of the future, I know we have the rest of this season to be excited about first, but I can’t help but think ahead a little tiny bit (hey, old habits die hard). It is probably too much to expect Grant Williams, Carsen Edwards, Romeo Langford, and Robert Williams to all develop into rotation players. But even if 2 of them pan out, that’s pretty good. Ainge will likely have 3 picks in the draft and might finally be motivated to trade some of them.
  • For now though, let’s finish out the season strong, healthy, and hopefully with the 2 seed (though health is more important).

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