Max Lederman

Jayson Tatum gets no respect!

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USA TODAY Sports Photo

Jayson Tatum gets no respect!

The popular narrative surrounding struggling Celtics rookie Jayson Tatum is that he’s hit the dreaded “rookie wall.” Another fun theory is that he’s been hampered by a dislocated finger suffered on December 20 vs Miami. One or both may be the cause of his dip in shooting since the start of this calendar year (he went from 58.5 eFG percent in 2017 to 46.2 eFG percent in 2018). But another factor could be respect, or the lack thereof, for Tatum when driving to the hoop.

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From October through December, Tatum averaged 4.6 drives per game, coming away with points on 77 percent of those drives (fourth in the NBA). A lot of those points came at the line, as Tatum drew a foul on an NBA-leading 15 percent of his trips to the basket. Since January 1, Tatum is averaging 6.5 drives per game, but is only coming away with points on 55 percent of those drives. Oddly, the Celtics forward is only drawing a foul on 6 percent of his drives over that span, which is 67th in the NBA.

It’s hard to say why he’s no longer getting fouls, but the lack of respect is definitely impacting his overall efficiency. Hopefully the zebras will start treating Tatum like the obvious future Hall of Famer he is in the final stretch of the season.

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A love letter from the Celtics for Marcus Smart

A love letter from the Celtics for Marcus Smart

Dear Marcus,

You’ve been gone for 21 days, but it feels like 21 years. Things just haven’t been the same without you, especially the Celtics' defensive rating, which was a league-best 99.8 before your departure and has been 103.3 since.

Like a true gentleman, you never hesitated to snatch the ball from an opponent if the team was in need. But now, it’s you that we need, because the Celtics are last in the NBA in steals per game since you’ve been gone.

Like an umbrella on a summer day, you never let the opposing team rain on our parade, helping the Celtics to the best opponent three-point shooting percentage in the NBA. We are drenched in your absence, falling to 20th in opponent three-point percentage in the 10 games you’ve been out.

Your sturdy presence helped guide our ship through the stormiest of weather conditions, but I fear the ship cannot hold. Four of the Celtics' eight worst defensive rating games have come without you. And we are drowning in a February swoon, with a defensive rating of 106.9, which is closer to the Cavaliers level than to our lofty standards.

Time heals a broken heart, and I hope in time you can return to heal our broken defense.

Love,

The Celtics

Green light at the end of the Patriots tunnel

Green light at the end of the Patriots tunnel

Defeat is not a lonely venture. We share the darkness with our neighbors, and we brood in our doom together, in solidarity. And while you may find comfort in the shared malaise of the Patriots’ Super Bowl loss, you can also find comfort in the excitement of a new adventure. A new purpose to pursue. A new team to root for…The Boston Celtics.

As the great philosophers Semisonic said, “Every new beginning comes from some other beginnings end.” What they are (probably) referring to is the sports cycle; the natural order of things in most major American cities. When one pro sports season ends, you move on to the next. In this case, the NBA season, and it’s not just about distracting your mind until the NFL Draft or free agency, it’s about rallying around another valiant cause…bringing the Larry O’Brien trophy back to Boston.

South African cleric Desmond Tutu said, “Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness.” Desmond Tutu was definitely not talking about the seemingly impossible task of making the NBA Finals and defeating the unbeatable Golden State Warriors, but his words still apply. New England fans may feel surrounded by darkness, but there is light. 

The Celtics have the best record in the Eastern Conference and the third-best record in the entire NBA. They have MVP candidate Kyrie Irving, whose ball-handling skills make you question whether the Earth might actually be flat (it’s not). They have Rookie of the Year candidate Jayson Tatum, who started the season so hot, people forget he’s still a teenager. They have human highlight reel Jaylen Brown, whose habit of posterizing opponents is borderline criminal. And they have Brad Stevens, the coaching savant disguised as a middle school math teacher, who has led the Celtics to the best record in the NBA vs the Warriors the past three seasons (3-3). No other team is .500 vs.  Golden State over that span. We haven’t even mentioned the growth of Terry Rozier or another All-Star season from Al Horford. 

MORE: CELTICS TALK PODCAST: Danny Ainge joins to talk about the trade deadline

Add it all up and what you have is hope. But in this case, hope is not a cliche on a poster. Hope is a wide-open Eastern Conference and a crumbling LeBron James-led Cleveland Cavaliers team. Hope is a real chance at making the NBA Finals and an actual shot at taking down Goliath. Hope is seeing the green light despite all of the post-Super Bowl darkness. 

It’s time to commit yourself, whole-heartedly, to the Boston Celtics

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