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.



Theis travels with Celtics, but broken nose leaves status up in air

Theis travels with Celtics, but broken nose leaves status up in air

BOSTON – The Boston Celtics don’t need to watch the film from Friday's 107-95 loss to Utah to know they need bring better energy when they return to action tonight at Memphis.

The status of one of the Celtics’ better high-energy players, Daniel Theis, was up in the air after Friday night's game after suffering a broken nose injury just 34 seconds into the loss to Utah. The team initially announced Theis would not travel to Memphis for Saturday night's game, but a last-minute decision to include him on the trip has left the door ajar for him possibly playing.

There are others who log more minutes off the bench than Theis, but it was evident on so many levels the impact of his absence had on Boston’s overall play.


Utah shot 48.2 percent from the field, and out-rebounded Boston by a decisive 55-31 margin. 

No one is saying Theis' presence would have totally reversed those numbers. But there's a very good chance Theis would have helped to bring both of those numbers down a bit which would have given the Celtics a much better shot at escaping with a win. 

“We miss a lot of defense and energy and rebounding with Theis being out,” Boston’s Terry Rozier told NBC Sports Boston. “But it’s the next-man up mentality.”

Celtics' guard/forward Jaylen Brown echoed similar sentiments about Theis.

“We’ve had that next-man-up mentality all year,” Brown said. “We want Theis to come back and have a speedy recovery. Obviously, it’s a need for somebody else to step up.”

Theis has appeared in 29 games this season with two starts. He is averaging 4.3 points and 3.8 rebounds in 12 minutes per game.

The numbers fail to show just how much the 25-year-old rookie’s presence has benefited the Celtics this season.

“I just want to come in, bring energy, defend, rebound, do whatever to help the team,” Theis recently told NBC Sports Boston. “Whatever to win, I want to do.”

It’s unclear when Theis will return to action for the Celtics, but he will in all likelihood get fitted for a mask akin to what Kyrie Irving wore recently.

But between now and then, the Celtics could find themselves looking for someone off the second unit to fill the void left by Theis.

“We got a lot of guys who can play,” Rozier said. “Everybody has to be ready to play. Everybody has to be ready to step in, and be ready to fill in for him.”


Stars, studs and duds: Rough second quarter took Celtics out of rhythm

Stars, studs and duds: Rough second quarter took Celtics out of rhythm

BOSTON – The Boston Celtics are no stranger to having bad quarters of basketball.

All NBA teams go through this throughout the season.

But for the Celtics, it’s rare that one bad quarter of play significantly hinders their chances of winning as was the case on Friday when the Celtics’ second-quarter struggles were literally the difference in their 107-95 loss to the Utah Jazz.

In the second quarter, Boston was outscored by 12 points (25-13) – the margin of Utah’s victory.

“Yeah, second quarter kind of sent us … took us out of our rhythm,” said Celtics head coach Brad Stevens. “Didn’t play well the rest of the game, I didn’t think.”


And while you have to credit the Jazz (14-15) for playing one of their best games of late in order to get the win, Boston didn’t play with the kind of force or resistance we’ve seen them exude when their backs are to the wall as was the case in the fourth quarter on Friday.

Rather than rising to the occasion, they simply rolled over for a Utath team that had lost nine straight to Boston, and came into the game riding a four-game losing streak.

“We weren’t playing as hard as they were,” Steven said. “We weren’t as organized as they were … everything. And it bit us.”

Boston’s Al Horford thought the Celtics’ offense got really stagnant in the second quarter.

“From the beginning of the quarter, we came into the game talking about executing, moving the ball side to side,” Horford said. “We started the game great I felt, and then in the second we just got away from that. We started playing more one-on-one and it’s hard when you go against a team like that because they’re solid defensively. They make you earn everything you get. We got away from the plan, and I feel like it was a snowball effect from there.”

To have struggles is nothing unusual for this Celtics team.

But Friday was one of the rare games this season when Boston couldn’t overcome those early setbacks and rally for a win.

“Usually for us, we are able to weather that storm,” said Boston’s Kyrie Irving. “But tonight they just wouldn’t let us back in it. It’s a tell-tale sign of a good team, and playing poised and understanding what they want to run and execute at a very high level.”

Here are the Stars, Studs and Duds from Boston’s 107-95 loss to the Utah Jazz.



Ricky Rubio

His overall playmaking as both a scorer and facilitator was a huge factor in the game’s outcome. He had a team-high 22 points on 10-for-15 shooting along with seven rebounds and five assists before fouling out in the fourth quarter.

Kyrie Irving

This was one of the rare games this season by the Celtics in which Irving got little support offensively. He led all scorers with 33 points on 11-for-25 shooting along with six assists and four rebounds.



Al Horford

Having a game off did a lot of good for Horford who looked refreshed on the floor for Boston. He had 21 points on 9-for-14 shooting which included knocking down three of his five 3-point attempts. Horford also tallied six rebounds and seven assists.

Jonas Jerebko

Was anyone surprised that the former Celtic had one of his best games this season against his former team? Jerebko came off the Jazz bench to score a season-high 17 points on 6-for-8 shooting with seven rebounds.  

Donovan Mitchell

The top scorer among rookies this season, Mitchell didn’t make a ton of shots but the ones he hit were impactful, for sure. Mitchell had a near double-double with 17 points on 6-for-19 shooting to go with nine assists.



Jayson Tatum

Tatum’s first points didn’t come until the fourth quarter, which tells you just how rough a night this was for the 19-year-old rookie. He would finish with seven points while missing six of his seven shot attempts.

Celtics bench

Boston needed a spark of some sort from their second unit … and it never came. They collective scored 26 points on 10-for-29 shooting and never seemed to collectively swing the game’s momentum in their favor.