Jayson Tatum on Sixers: We should have swept them

Jayson Tatum on Sixers: We should have swept them

BOSTON — Jayson Tatum often reminded Joel Embiid this summer about how his Boston Celtics eliminated the Philadelphia 76ers in five games during an Eastern Conference semifinal series. With the two teams set to meet again on opening night on Tuesday, the trash talk should start fresh for two teams that are budding rivals.

Tatum was asked about working out with Embiid over the summer and — as was spotlighted in the videos that emerged from those sessions — Boston’s second-year forward takes every opportunity to remind Embiid of the Celtics’ playoff dominance.

"I just kept reminding him that we almost swept them,” said Tatum. "We should have swept them but we let them win one game.”

While Tatum said the trash-talk was all playful, it’s clear the Celtics and 76ers are primed to be long-time rivals given their shared status as two of the East’s best young teams.

After playing a whopping 11 times last season — two preseason, four regular season, five postseason games — these two teams won’t need much of a reintroduction.

"Definitely some animosity,” said Tatum. "We won, so they are probably a little more fired up or angry than we are, but we're excited to play. We had a lot of good matchups with them last year, a lot of great battles, especially in the playoffs.”

Celtics coach Brad Stevens spoke highly of his team’s opening-night opponent.

"You watch them all summer — I think they’re one of the most creative teams on offense and defense in the league,” said Stevens. "I greatly appreciate watching them as a basketball fan, let alone having a responsibility to prepare for them. So, yes, I enjoy watching them play. I think [coach] Brett [Brown] does a great job and obviously they’re phenomenal.”

While Stevens showered Philly with praise, Celtics guard Terry Rozier is excited for the trash-talk and hard-nosed play that undoubtedly awaits, particularly with Embiid on the other side of the court.

"It’s gonna be two teams getting after it, whether it’s biting, scratching, no matter what you have to do to win, that’s what it’s gonna be,” said Rozier. "I think we’re looking forward to it. I know I am. I like the stuff that Embiid talks. It’s good for basketball. It’ll get you hyped up, so you know, if they like it, we love it. It’s going to be a lot of fun. We ready for it.”

Tatum wouldn’t take the bait when asked whether the Celtics are currently ahead of the Sixers, especially given how Boston is adding a pair of All-Stars in Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward to a team that won in five games during the playoffs.

Tatum noted how the Celtics can’t lean on what they did last season. Added Tatum: “It’s going to take some time for us to look as well as we did in the playoffs … we’re not going to be perfect.”

For his part, a sleepy Irving, who apologized to reporters for being tired and short with his responses before Sunday’s early afternoon practice, didn’t have much thoughts on the Sixers.

“I don’t know. All I know is destroy,” said Irving. "That’s all I know. So once we go out there that’s the only thing.”


Celtics used Red Sox' Brock Holt as example of sacrifice

Celtics used Red Sox' Brock Holt as example of sacrifice

BOSTON — Boston Celtics coach Brad Stevens said he used Boston Red Sox’ Brock Holt as an example of sacrifice last week, spotlighting Holt’s selflessness to his Celtics players after Holt was held out of the lineup one night after hitting for the cycle during the American League Division Series against the New York Yankees.

Red Sox manager Alex Cora inserted Ian Kinsler at second base for Game 4 of the ALDS, one day after Holt became the first player in MLB history to hit for the cycle in a postseason game. With sacrifice and accepting roles such a big theme around the Celtics as they prepare for a season with title aspirations, Holt’s situation resonated with Stevens.

“We’ve used [the Red Sox] as examples quite a bit,” said Stevens. "The Brock Holt example last week of going for the cycle and getting a DNP the next day, is how you win, right? And being willing to take on those roles, both as the guy that did it and the guy that replaced him the next night in Kinsler, those things matter. They’ve set a great example for us as we move into a new year.”

Stevens said Holt’s sacrifice came up as a topic of conversation when the team met last week.

"We talked about it a little bit in film. But everybody knows it, everybody’s paying attention to what’s going on,” said Stevens. "All of us, whether we’re transplanted or not become fans of the teams here. And, for me, my first year here, the Red Sox won the World Series. And that was a couple months after we moved and ever since then I’d say our whole family has been hooked. It’s just a blast to go over there and watch them work. Coach [Alex] Cora and their whole organization has had a heck of a year; we hope it lasts a few more weeks.”

Stevens went to Fenway Park for Saturday night’s Game 1 of the ALCS against the Houston Astros and marveled at constantly being able to be mingle with Boston’s other professional sports teams.

"I get such a kick out of being a fan and just enjoying that,” said Stevens, whose family has adopted many of Boston’s sports teams, even as he maintains his childhood allegiance to the Chicago Cubs. “Obviously, it didn’t turn out the way we wanted [with Houston winning Game 1] but hopefully they’ll get [Game 2 on Sunday]. I think that it’s just special to get a chance to do that here with all these teams. Certainly, the Red Sox have had a historic year. They've always rebounded when something tough has happened.”

Stevens visited the Red Sox at spring training in February, and he’s often made treks to Foxborough to mingle with the Patriots coaching staff. The Celtics and Bruins are neighbors with their new practice facilities in Brighton.

"It’s just unique. And I think that we’re all really lucky, the four major professional sports teams, to get a chance to represent Boston,” said Stevens. "That’s just a really really unique, unusual opportunity.”


Brad Stevens and Marcus Morris mic'd up at Celtics practice

Brad Stevens and Marcus Morris mic'd up at Celtics practice

Listen to Brad Stevens communicate with his players and Marcus Morris talk to his teammates during Celtics practice.