CHICAGO — After years of showing up to All-Star weekend as a solo act, Kemba Walker has no problem sharing the spotlight for a change, with teammate Jayson Tatum.
While this is Walker’s fourth All-Star selection, it’ll be the first time he has been chosen along with a teammate. Tatum makes his All-Star debut on Sunday.
“It’s exciting man, it’s exciting,” Walker told NBC Sports Boston. “Like I’ve been saying all year, he’s a special talent. He deserves to be here. And I’m happy I’m able to share this moment with him, his first one. This is the one he’s never going to forget, ever.”
The All-Star format will pit the two teammates against each other. Walker's playing for Team Giannis (Antetokounmpo), while Tatum's on Team LeBron (James).
As connected as Walker and Tatum are on and off the floor (they are Boston's top two scorers), they are competitors first and foremost.
To no surprise, the trash talking by both is in full bloom right now. They will certainly go out of their way to be matched up against each other at some point on Sunday.
The two played an NBA 2K with their own respective All-Star teams which ended with Walker getting the win.
“So right now, I’m ahead of him,” Walker said. “Tomorrow is going to be fun. I’m looking forward to it.”
Tatum has repeatedly said he will go at his teammate, who is at least eight inches shorter. Walker says he’ll counter by going at Tatum and using the first-time All-Star's own game against him.
“I’m gonna hit him with his own move,” Walker said. “I got it down pat. I’m gonna hit him with the step back to the right or the left which he usually does.”
When the game's over, the two will embrace and quickly refocus their talents and skills on the Celtics, picking up where they left off. Boston won 10 if its last 11 games before the All-Star break.
Boston’s success is very much fueled by the team’s strong collective efforts. But there’s no getting around the fact that the play of Tatum is critical to Boston’s short and long-term growth.
Walker believes a big part of Tatum’s improved play this season centers around his ability to read coverages at both ends of the floor.
“Being on the court, he’s just making the right plays,” Walker said. “You could just see the growth from early on in the season to now.”