Every morning, we compile the links of the day and dump them here… highlighting the big storyline. Because there’s nothing quite as satisfying as a good morning dump.
A few times this season, Jayson Tatum has looked like a no-questions-asked superstar. On Thursday, he dropped 39 points against the Clippers with Kawhi Leonard guarding him for most of the second half.
Tatum has arrived. Where he goes from here will be a lot of fun to watch.
Brad Stevens has said time and time again that praise is as tough for players to deal with as criticism.
Well, Tatum is getting a lot of praise after last night’s monster performance, and with good reason. It was a monster performance, maybe the game of his life.
Stevens, though, says Tatum seems to be in a good place.
“He’s gotten so much more attention as a young player than probably anybody, I don’t know in the last — in this group of guys, at 21-years-old just because he’s been so good since he got here. And every game has been meaningful,” Stevens said. “He’s used to it. I was impressed with the way Jaylen, after not being named an All-Star, came out and played. I was impressed with the way Jayson, after being named an All-Star, came out and played. I don’t expect that to change. I think Jayson, he understands he’s got a long way to go and he wants to have more nights like tonight.”
Last night’s game was a classic. Coming into the season, I expected the Clips to be the better team in LA, and I didn’t see anything last night to change my mind.
With guys like Paul George and Kawhi Leonard being ‘load managed’ often during the regular season, I think it’s a mistake to pay too much attention to the records of the two Staples Center tenants. And after perhaps working KG too hard during the regular season in 2009, you saw a very different coaching strategy from Doc Rivers during the rest of his tenure in Boston, and that’s carried over to the Clippers.
The C’s went into last night’s game once again down a player–Jaylen Brown this time (who should be happy he didn’t draw an ASG nod and can thus spend the next several days resting his lower extremities)–and played the Clippers, who finished the game without Paul George, to an even draw through 53 minutes and 127 points.
And at the end of it all, Brad Stevens had a rookie on the court, Grant Williams, after Daniel Theis fouled out, and Williams–who had been struggling earlier (to put it mildly), helped seal the win for Boston.
This team is good right now, and with guys like Williams, the future looks pretty good as well.
Granted, an extra ten minutes of basketball skews the stats for everyone, but look at the line for the C’s here:
That’s what a championship caliber team looks like. Yes, Tatum’s point total is what jumps out at you on first glance, but look closer:
The guy with the lowest point total of the four, Kemba Walker, who struggled from the field, was +22 in a game that was tied after 53 minutes. He also pulled down 9 rebounds, which more than doubles his season average. Hayward shot the worst of the four from the field, going only 3 of 13 from two point range. But he also got to the line six times, made all six of his FTs, and pulled down 13 rebounds, tying with Montrezl Harrell to lead all players. And, like Grant Williams, he made key plays on the defensive end that helped seal the win. The two players who had the worst nights shooting managed to have the best +/-.
Marcus Smart? A younger Marcus Smart might have let the sour taste of Tuesday’s game against Houston linger. That was an ugly, ugly game, and in the past, Smart has had a hard time moving on after such things. Last night he came out on fire and racked up 31 points on an eminently respectable line (50% overall, 37.5% from 3, 6-8 FTs).
The point is, each one of these guys and Jaylen could be “the guy” on another team. In fact, Kemba Walker was such on several crappy iterations of the Hornets, and Hayward was “the guy” on a fairly respectable Utah squad. But what they’re able to do when they don’t really care who’s getting what stat is lightning in a bottle. It’s the stuff that fans dream about, it’s something that some teams have never had.
As for the Clippers? I think Mike speaks for all of us:
Page 2: Where number 5 is going into the rafters
This comes as no surprise to anyone, and it coincides with Garnett’s near-certain election to the HOF this summer.
I like to refer back to the 1960s Celtics a lot when describing this team. Hayward and Walker, yes, are key parts of this team and they were both free agent signings, but this team was assembled via the draft and overseas signings: Only three of the fifteen players on the C’s roster have played for another NBA team. And this team was assembled by making unconventional picks. It’s a team that’s been tailored to suit its coach, and I think that’s why it reminds me more of the ’60s Celtics than it does the ’80s teams.
But for Kemba Walker and Gordon Hayward, the model isn’t the Russell years or the Bird years. It’s the KG years. Like KG, these guys came to Boston to win.
These guys aren’t wired the way KG was, but in one respect they’re the same: They are driven to win, and not everybody in the league has that fire. You can’t stick in the NBA unless you’re prepared to work. But the league is full of guys who aren’t willing to subordinate their own performance in the interest of better results for the team. They care about winning, sure, I mean everyone does to a certain extent, but they’re primarily looking out for themselves.
P.S. If you’re one of those people who think that the C’s have retired too many numbers, go back and re-read the previous paragraph. Red retired the numbers of guys who had the same do-what-it-takes-screw-the-stats approach to the game that he did. If you had that attitude, it didn’t matter what the rest of the league thought of you, and it didn’t matter if ordinary fans didn’t get it.
Finally: It’s not fun when people don’t tell you stuff, is it Doc?
“I didn’t even see it. Did I miss an announcement?” Rivers asked after the game, when questioned about it.
He did. During the timeout, the lights went down and “I Got 5 On It” by Luniz started playing. A montage of great moments by Garnett during his time with the Celtics ran across the screen, followed by the Celtics’ banner of retired numbers. “Coming 2020-21 season” flashed across it, then Garnett’s No. 5.
“Here?” Rivers said, when told the announcement he missed. “Oh wow. That’s awesome. That’s really cool. I wish someone would’ve told me. See, that tells you that I’m focused on the game. That is awesome. That is really awesome. Hopefully it’s a day that we play them and I can be there, because that is absolutely deserved. And Hall of Fame next. He’s a special man in my life for sure.”
Those on a low-salt diet may want to skip the following paragraph:
That announcement kind of caught you off guard, eh Doc? Sort of stinks when someone makes an important decision and then doesn’t say anything about it until the last minute, doesn’t it?
I think the C’s definitely upgraded by replacing Rivers with Stevens, and I don’t think that Rivers would have done anywhere near the job that Stevens has done developing Smart, Tatum and Brown. However, I’m not gonna lie, Rivers’ disingenuousness about his desire to coach elsewhere still sticks in my craw a little.
The rest of the links
NBC Sports: Blakely: Hayward quietly clutch as ever in big win | Forsberg: Tatum isn’t waiting for All-Star weekend to shine | Overreactions: Is Tatum officially entering ‘superstar’ status? | Garnett weighs in on Celtics retiring his number