Markelle Fultz makes first shot, but Jayson Tatum, Celtics get last laugh

Markelle Fultz makes first shot, but Jayson Tatum, Celtics get last laugh

BOSTON – The very first point scored in the much-anticipated Boston-Philadelphia summer league matchup, was by Markelle Fultz.

But as is the case in the regular season and playoffs, it’s the final point that’s remembered which is why the Celtics and Jayson Tatum were feeling pretty good after Tatum’s jumper with 5.7 seconds left lifted Boston to an 89-88 win over the Sixers.

Fultz, who finished with 16 points, got another crack at carrying Philadelphia to victory only to have his up-and-under shot attempt blocked by Jaylen Brown.

Even though Brown (29 points, 13 rebounds) was easily the best player on the floor for either team, the story of the night centered on the play of Fultz and Tatum.

Having come up through the AAU circuit having competed against each other previously, Tatum knew that Sunday’s game would be in the eyes of many, a big deal because of him and Fultz.

But Tatum refused to let the white noise that hyped up their matchup, affect his play.

“Me and Markelle have known each other a long time from high school, played against each other, all-star games,” Tatum said. “We finally reached our dream and I’m pretty sure we’ll compete against each other for a long time.”

While the Celtics were certainly pleased with the outcome, Celtics head coach Brad Stevens was more focused on how Tatum played and not necessarily what stats he registered.

“The most important thing is playing hard and getting a feel for our system,” Stevens said prior to the game. “Whatever happens today, I don’t care with regard to stat line and those type of things. It’s more, ‘are you getting one step closer to being what you need to be to help our team next year?’”

Brown was among the many Celtics impressed with Tatum’s performance, showing an uncanny cool and calmness you don’t see often in rookies let alone 19-year-old ones.

“I told Jayson, ‘take a deep breath, breathe,’” Brown said.

A year ago, Brown was exactly where Tatum was – the No. 3 pick trying to prove himself to his older teammates and to the rest of the league.

“Last year when I was in his spot I was so nervous,” said Brown who repeatedly attacked the rim in his summer league debut a year ago and went to the free throw line but struggled to make shots. “I think I shot 17 free throws and I only had like 15 points. I was so nervous. I could see it in his eyes, he was nervous early.”

Tatum acknowledged he did have some butterflies at the start of the game.

But as it progressed, he calmed down.

And when it mattered most, Tatum was as clutch as they come.

“He has this old soul … he doesn’t get rattled,” said Celtics assistant coach Jerome Allen who is coaching the team’s summer league squad in Salt Lake City. “Just kind of plays at his pace, like he’s been here before, at 19.”

And down the stretch, Tatum was pleased that the coaching staff had enough confidence in him to take – and make – his first game-winning shot.

“It put a lot of pressure on me, to take the shot,” Tatum said. “But that’s what summer league is for; to learn some things, if I would have made it or miss it.”

Celtics will return to limited practice routine starting June 1

Celtics will return to limited practice routine starting June 1

The Boston Celtics will move one step closer towards preparing for the remainder of this season, with voluntary individual player workouts beginning at the team’s practice facility on June 1. 

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker announced on Friday that professional teams in the state could resume practicing soon. 

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“I know we still aren’t to the point where we’ll have our pro sports teams back playing anything yet,” Baker said in a press conference at the State House. “The leagues are obviously working hard to host games again. And I think we all hope that at some point, opening practice facilities will help make that happen a little sooner.”

Danny Ainge, the Celtics’ President of Basketball Operations, echoed similar sentiments on Friday. 

“We’re happy that our players will now have the option to work out individually in a safe environment at the Auerbach Center,” Ainge said. “And we hope it signals a step back towards playing basketball again.”

The Celtics added that the workouts will adhere to strict protocols that include but are not limited to the following:

  • Workouts are voluntary & will be conducted in strict accordance with city, state, CDC, and NBA requirements and guidelines.
  • Symptom and temperature checks will be done by team medical staff before anyone enters the facility.
  • Workouts will be limited to individual (1-on-0) shooting, strength and conditioning work, and medical evaluation and therapy as needed.
  • Only essential areas will be accessed. There will be no access to locker rooms, showers, hydrotherapy, medical exam rooms, cafeteria, and offices.
  • Only four players will be able to work out at a time, each working with only one staff member at a time. There will be no more than one player per half court at a time.
  • All staff members will wear masks in the building, and any staff member working with a player must wear gloves. Players will wear masks except while engaging in physical activity. Players and staff will adhere to CDC and NBA compliant social distancing standards at all times.
  • Social distancing will be required in the building except in limited specific instances  (e.g. physical therapy), when PPE will be used.
  • A thorough cleaning and disinfection of all spaces and equipment, including basketballs, will take place before and after each player uses the building.
  • Only staff members essential to these workouts will be present at the Auerbach Center. There will be no access for general staff, public, or media. 

While no definitive date has been set for the NBA to resume play, NBA commissioner Adam Silver has reportedly told owners that the league is targeting July 31 as a return-to-play date. 

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NBA rumors: July 31 is a target date for 2019-20 season return

NBA rumors: July 31 is a target date for 2019-20 season return

Could we see the return of NBA basketball at the end of July?

The Athletic's Shams Charania has reported the league told its Board of Governors on Friday that July 31 is a potential target date for the resumption of the 2019-20 season.

Charania also reported the league discussed four return to play scenarios ranging from going directly to the playoffs with 16 teams to bringing back all 30 teams and having them play 72 regular season games (most teams already have played around 65) before the postseason. The latter scenario doesn't seem likely, though.

If the season does resume, the remaining games (including the playoffs) could be played at one location to minimize travel and maximize the safety and health of players, team employees and everyone else involved. One such location reportedly being considered is Disney’s ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Florida.

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It's important to remember nothing has been announced by the league, and plenty of details must be sorted out before games can start up again. This news of a potential target date for a season return is encouraging, though.