Every morning, we compile the links of the day and dump them here… highlighting the big story line. Because there’s nothing quite as satisfying as a good morning dump.
Jayson Tatum sat down for his Zoom call with the media. He looked into the camera, saw himself, and decided to have some fun.
Romeo Langford took a seat after Tatum and in the midst of his answers, Marcus Smart decided to drop in.
Brad Stevens has said he wants his Boston Celtics to find their joy, and they seem to be doing that. Of course, that’s kind of easy right now. The rigors of the bubble an the separation from family haven’t fully set in yet.
If there’s been one consistent message from Stevens over the past few weeks, it’s that the team’s mental state may be more important to their success than the X’s and O’s. The team’s ability to cope with, and thrive in, the most unusual of situations may have the biggest impact on their on-the-floor success. Making good use of those 21 hours outside of practice can greatly enhance those other three hours.
The good news about the Celtics in Disney World is that they seem to have the proper attitude about their situation. They’re keeping it light, staying positive, and enjoying their time together. For evidence, just look at Enes Kanter tweeting about Disney food, Jaylen Brown promising to take the bubble life in stride, and Marcus Smart firing off one-liners about the anonymous tip hotline.
That appears to be a screenshot from “Call of Duty: Warzone,” a popular video game which many NBA players are likely playing during their downtime in the bubble.
No word from NBA commissioner Adam Silver on if he actually sends his players to a creepy, abandoned bathroom that Smart jokingly said belongs to Celtics teammate Daniel Theis.
NBC Sports Boston: Celtics’ Marcus Smart has jokes about NBA’s unique ‘snitch line’
Last year, a forced trip into isolation would not have gone well for the guys in green. No, not at all. But now, with no toxic forces among a group that genuinely seems to care about each other, they’re bonding like Frodo Baggins and the Fellowship of the Ring.
In the bubble, a tight-knit group is more necessary than ever, because circumstances can change at any moment. Just recently, Zion Williamson had to leave the Pelicans’ bubble for a “family medical matter.” And the Bucks’ Eric Bledsoe hasn’t even entered the bubble yet because he tested positive for coronavirus. Uncertainty abounds.
Not to mention that there’s still a very long way to go. More from MassLive:
The real test of this bubble concept will come just before the playoffs start. Teams will have been on the Walt Disney World campus for a month-and-a-half, which is an extraordinary amount of time to be someplace other than home. At that point, they’d still be weeks away from their families joining them, which means the drain of the time away will be amplified by the promise of a reunion a little too far away.
Only the most mentally tough groups will overcome all the challenges of the NBA bubble. So far, the Celtics are right there.
On Page 2: Can Tatum pick up where he left off?
The Celtics are also loving being back where they belong, on the basketball court. Although the current hardwood is in a ballroom in Florida rather than the Auerbach Center in Boston, it’s nevertheless home to them. Tatum is definitely glad to be there.
Those are words that Celtics fans have longed to hear for four months. Tatum was Making The Leap to Superstardom when the season was halted. He had scored 29.9 PPG in the nine games after his first All-Star appearance, and for the season was averaging 23.6, nearly 8 points per game better than last season.
The Celtics are still two weeks away from a real game, and a week away from scrimmaging against the Oklahoma City Thunder. So for now, Tatum is just doing all he can to prepare for his next moment in the spotlight.
“I think how I look when I shoot by myself or in practice is totally different than actually playing in a game, playing against another team,” he said. “I feel like my rhythm is coming back each and every day. I think it would be hard for me to say or give a percentage to how close I think I am to [what I was] the second half of the season. So I’m really just excited. I’m enjoying being at practice, seeing the guys, playing with them. This is the most I’ve enjoyed practice since I’ve been in the NBA, just happy to be back playing basketball.”
Now Tatum has a new challenge: Recapturing that magic after months away from the game under highly unusual circumstances. He was asked how he can maintain his edge when the season resumes.
“Just challenging myself, always setting new goals, setting the standard extremely high,” Tatum said. “Not caring what other people think of me — whether it’s really good or whether they think it was a fluke or it was just a short time span. That doesn’t really bother me. I know what I’m capable of, what I think I’m capable of and what I’m striving for. So I think that’s the edge that I have for myself is just I step on the floor and I think I’m the best player every night. And I think with that confidence — I know a lot of guys probably feel that way, but I think that’s the mindset I take. And just knowing I can do it, just keep pushing. I know I have a long way to go, but I just want to continue to get better every night, every week, every game, every year. And just never getting complacent.”
It’s not exaggerating to say that if Tatum keeps dropping 30 per night, the Celtics have a true shot at winning Banner 18. According to ESPN, Boston does not have a top 10 player in Orlando, but they do have five of the top 50, more than any other squad. Good health and a studly performance from Tatum (no. 13 on that list) would go a long way toward making this crazy bubble idea well worth the trouble.
Related – Boston Sports Journal: Jayson Tatum is eager to prove his All-Star breakout was no fluke | NBC Sports Boston: Jayson Tatum: ‘I step on the floor, I think I’m the best player every night’
And, finally… Fore!
Tatum took up golf recently, and is playing every day down in Disney. He’s got a nice swing, but hoop is still his game.
Related – Celtics Wire/USA Today: While some Celtics have fallen hard for golf, not all share the love
The Rest of the Links:
Associated Press: NBA says races for the season’s individual trophies are over