Tatum may find himself in Celtics' starting lineup on Opening Night

Tatum may find himself in Celtics' starting lineup on Opening Night

BOSTON -- Jayson Tatum has been the talk of the preseason for the Celtics, a basketball prodigy in the eyes of many whose feel for the game goes well beyond what you would expect from a 19-year-old.
That’s why the idea of him being an Opening Night starter, while somewhat far-fetched just a few weeks ago, may indeed become a reality. 
Coach Brad Stevens has not announced who his starters will be for the season opener at Cleveland on Tuesday, but all indications are that it’ll include Tatum. 


And that would make Tatum the first rookie to start for the Celtics since Vitor Faverani in 2013, Stevens’ rookie season with the Celtics.
“I don’t want to say (who will start) because then I feel like I’m stuck to it,” Stevens said. “It’ll probably be pretty similar to what we’ve been doing.”
Boston’s new Big Three of Kyrie Irving, Gordon Hayward and Al Horford will certainly start. Second-year forward Jaylen Brown has been with the first unit in all four preseason games. 
And who has started the most games after that? 
Jayson Tatum. 
He appeared in all four preseason games (three starts), averaging a team-best 24.3 minutes played while averaging 8.3 points per game. 
Even more impressive was his defense, as he showed the ability to contain players with different strengths. 
Tatum has also benefited from circumstances that he had no control over, to be in position to be in the starting lineup. 
Aron Baynes, who started the first preseason game, suffered a knee injury that forced him to miss one preseason game, but beyond that has been a solid contributor for Boston.  In three preseason games, he averaged 8.0 points and 4.3 rebounds. Stevens said Baynes spent some time practicing with the first unit on Sunday, primarily to work on the chemistry of playing with Al Horford. 
If Stevens doesn’t start Tatum, Baynes would be the likely choice. 
Stevens will also be without Marcus Morris (knee) who will be re-evaluated in 10 days to two weeks. He, too, was a possible option to consider starting. 
But to Tatum’s credit, he has made the most of his opportunity to play and, by and large, has done a good job.
Still, preseason success is by no means an indicator of how he will fare against Cleveland, the team everyone in the East is chasing.
This isn't lost on Tatum who says he has been getting some sage advice from the team’s veteran players. 
“Regular season and preseason are like night and day,” Tatum recalls the Celtics’ more seasoned players telling him. “[Regular season is] a totally different ball game.”
Especially when Tatum thinks about how at some point on Tuesday night, he’ll be face-to-face against LeBron James. 

“I used to watch LeBron on TV and now playing my first game against him . . . ” said Tatum who acknowledged that he has envisioned himself playing against James before. 
How’d that go?
“It went good in my head,” Tatum said, grinning.



Ainge: 'Setback' wrong word to use about Hayward

Ainge: 'Setback' wrong word to use about Hayward

When is a setback not a setback?

When Danny Ainge says, "You know what? Sometimes I talk too much," Ainge told the Boston Herald over the weekend. "'Setback' wasn't the right word, so let me rephrase that because it's not exactly true to say it - or say it that way.

The Celtics president of basketball operations, in his weekly radio interview with Toucher and Rich on 98.5 The Sports Hub and simulcast on NBC Sports Boston, used that word when he was describing how Gordon Hayward is coming along in his recovery. 

"He had like one setback for a couple of weeks, maybe a month and a half ago," Ainge said on the radio last week. "We were progressing a little bit too fast, we thought."

Ainge clarified that to the Herald's Steve Bulpett. 

"What happened is he went on the AlterG [anti-gravity treadmill] the first day and he felt some soreness," he said. "It was the first day he tried the AlterG, a long time ago. He just wasn't ready for it at that point. That's all it was."

Celtics coach Brad Stevens has been adamant that Hayward, recovering from his gruesome leg and ankle injury in the season opener, will not play for the Celtics this season. On Sunday, Stevens, via MassLive.com's Jay King, characterized Stevens' soreness as a "small" issue. 



Chest pains and lack of sleep lead to medical leave for Cavs coach Lue

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Chest pains and lack of sleep lead to medical leave for Cavs coach Lue

CLEVELAND - Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue is taking a leave of absence from the team to address health issues that have included chest pains and loss of sleep.

Lue said Monday in a statement that tests have offered no conclusion about what the issue is and offered no timetable for his return. The coach said he feels he needs to step away "and focus on trying to establish a stronger and healthier foundation" from which to coach the rest of the season.

Here's a portion of Lue's statement:

I have had chest pains and other troubling symptoms, compounded by a loss of sleep, throughout the year. Despite a battery of tests, there have been no conclusions as to what the exact issue is.

"While I have tried to work through it, the last thing I want is for it to affect the team. I am going to use this time to focus on a prescribed routine and medication, which has previously been difficult to start in the midst of a season," Lue said. "My goal is to come out of it a stronger and healthier version of myself so I can continue to lead this team to the championship we are all working towards."

A stress-filled season for the Cavs has taken a toll on the Lue, 40, a former Celtics assistant under Doc Rivers who led them to the 2016 NBA championship after taking over for David Blatt midway through that season. They are j40-29, third in the Eastern Conference, behind the second-place Celtics and East-leading Toronto Raptors, and have endured roster shake-ups, injuries and other distractions as they try to return to the NBA Finals.

David Aldridge of TNT reports that the plan is for Lue to return in a week. The NBA playoffs begin April 14. 

"We all want great players, we all want the best teams, but with that comes a lot of pressure as well. And what Ty Lue has had to go through this year with that team, with the trades and the injuries and the pressure, it's unrelenting," Denver coach Michael Malone said. "So I hope that he gets healthy and is able to get back in time for the playoffs and help that team win as many games as possible."

Lue spent the second half of Cleveland's victory in Chicago on Saturday in the locker room because of an illness, the second time this season he left a game because he wasn't feeling well. The former NBA guard also sat one out against Chicago at home in December.

Associate head coach Larry Drew coached the second half of Saturday's game, the finale of a six-game, 11-day road trip. Cleveland is back home to host Milwaukee on Monday.

"We know how difficult these circumstances are for Coach Lue and we support him totally in this focused approach to addressing his health issues," general manager Koby Altman said.

Charlotte coach Steve Clifford also left his team to address his health this season. He took six weeks off. Medical tests revealed that the 56-year-old Clifford did not have any internal problems, but the doctor's diagnosis was the coach was suffering from severe sleep deprivation.

AP Basketball Writer Tim Reynolds contributed to this report.

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