Steve Kerr knows firsthand how great the Boston Celtics' core of Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Kemba Walker and Marcus Smart is after serving as an assistant coach for Team USA in the 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup. While Team USA as a whole experienced their worst result at a World Cup, the four Celtics stood out.
Walker led Team USA in points (14.4) and assists (5.4) per game, while Tatum led in rebounds (7.5).
"I coached Jayson and Jaylen last summer in China as an assistant coach on Pop's staff, as well as Kemba and Marcus," Kerr said Monday to reporters. "I got know those guys pretty well and loved coaching them. No surprise they're having so much success as a team over the years, and individually.
"They're really hard workers, good guys, good players."
Kerr and the Warriors will go up against three of the four Tuesday night at Chase Center. Smart will miss the contest after injuring his calf last week.
The Celtics are 10-8 this season, good for fourth in Eastern Conference, despite Walker missing the first 11 games of the season to injury and Tatum missing five games stemming from a positive COVID-19 test. The Warriors sit in seventh place in the Western Conference with an 11-9 record.
Though Walker and Smart are key parts of Boston's success, Brown and Tatum turning into stars is what will make the Celtics true championship contenders. Brown has been a star with Tatum out, averaging 27.1 points this season, up from 20.3 last season. In the 13 games that Tatum has played this season, he's averaging 26.8 points while shooting 43.5 percent from beyond the arc.
Simply said, the duo is exactly what every NBA team wishes they had.
"Jayson and Jaylen in particular, they're part of that rare breed that we're all looking for in the NBA -- guys who can do everything," Kerr said. "They have the size and the speed and the quickness to guard every position. They have the skill set to score from any part of the floor. They can make 3s, get out in transition and hammer dunks, they can score in the halfcourt using their footwork.
"Both guys to me are the modern archetype that we're looking for. What makes them even better are their human qualities -- their work ethic, their chemistry that they generate on a team. They're fun guys to coach, fun guys to play with. When you have that combination of being a really good person and having that kind of god-given ability, it's a good combination."
Brown and Tatum are going to put up points. That's a guarantee. Kerr knows it's more about containing them than completely stopping them. That's never easy, though.
It will take a team effort to beat Boston, and it all starts with cooling off Brown and Tatum.