Celtics

Celtics' Kemba Walker on Jayson Tatum's bounce-back game: 'There'll be a lot more big games for that guy'

Celtics' Kemba Walker on Jayson Tatum's bounce-back game: 'There'll be a lot more big games for that guy'

BOSTON -- The final numbers for Jayson Tatum in Boston’s 140-133 win over Washington - 23 points on 9-for-19 shooting - are not going to inspire any “M-V-P” chants or anything like that. 

“Better than one-for-eighteen,” said a grinning Tatum, referring to the horrendous shooting performance he had in Boston’s win over Dallas on Monday. 

Tatum has had some off nights shooting this season, but the woeful performance against Dallas was historically bad. It was only the ninth time in NBA history that a player shot that poorly while taking 18 shots from the field. 

Washington Wizards star Bradley Beal, who knows Tatum better than anyone else in the NBA, said going into the game Wednesday night that the third-year forward was going to have a solid bounce-back performance. 

Beal said he anticipated Tatum would come out, “gunning. I know it.”

He added, “He forgot about that game and is looking forward to this one.”

He was right. 

Tatum didn’t take long to get it going offensively against the Wizards (2-7), scoring 11 points in the first quarter alone on 5-for-9 shooting from the field. 

Hitting up the practice facility within hours of the Mavericks game on Monday was part of Tatum’s put-that-one-behind-me program that as we saw against Washington on Wednesday, worked pretty well. 

When asked why he went to the practice facility right after the Dallas game, Tatum replied, “Just see some shots go in, really. Try to get my mind off the game and get back in a rhythm.”

Kemba Walker said he spoke with Tatum shortly before the game. 

“I told him, ‘You know, every night is not going to be the best night. It’s all about the bounce back,’” Walker recalled. “And he bounced back tonight. It was a huge game; a big game from him.”

It was important not only for the Celtics to continue on their winning ways, but also for Tatum’s growth into someone that many believe will eventually rank among the best in the NBA. 

“He’s a special talent,” Walker said. “I’m excited [about] the way he handled tonight’s game.”

Beal echoed similar sentiments about his fellow St. Louis native who also attended the same high school (Chaminade College Prep) as Beal years later.

“He’s a star, man; a star in the making,” Beal, who dropped 44 points on the Celtics, said of Tatum. “It’s amazing to be a part of his life, to see him grow every year to where he is now.”

The 26-year-old Beal has been an All-Star each of the last two seasons, so he knows all too well how challenging it can be to make that leap from being a good player, which is where Tatum is now, to being an All-Star, which Tatum has not been coy about as being one of his many goals. 

“He’s going to continue to get better. He’s going to hit bumps in the road,” Beal said. “He’s going to go through adversity. That’s just going to make him better and stronger.”

And seeing him up close now, Walker has gained a greater appreciation for not just Tatum’s talent but the amount of time he puts into his game to get better. 

“From his first season, watching from afar, and now being his teammate, I love the way he works on off days to improve his game,” Walker said. “We need that kid; we need him a lot. We need him to score big points for us and we need him to take on those challenges. There’ll be a lot more big games for that guy.”

Don’t miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-Warriors, which tips off Friday at 9:30 p.m. ET with Celtics Pregame Live, and then Mike & Scal have the call of the game at 10:30 p.m. You can also stream the game through the MyTeams App.

NBA Rumors: Execs expect Gordon Hayward to opt in to $34 million Celtics contract

NBA Rumors: Execs expect Gordon Hayward to opt in to $34 million Celtics contract

Gordon Hayward was enjoying his best season as a Boston Celtic before the 2019-20 season came to a screeching halt due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Through 45 games, the 30-year-old forward was averaging 17.3 points, 6.5 rebounds and 4.1 assists while shooting 59.3 percent from the field. Hayward's performance was setting himself up for a solid contract if he were to opt out of his contract and hit free agency this summer.

That scenario doesn't appear likely, however.

According to Heavy.com, NBA executives expect Hayward to exercise his $34 million player option.

'It’s too much money to pass up,' one general manager told Heavy.com. 'He could get a longer deal if that is what he really wants. But I don’t think the Celtics want to give it to him, they have a lot of young guys to pay and the starting (salary) number on whatever the contract is will not be close to $34 million. He can opt in this year and then take a big contract next year. When you look at what he has done since his injury, he has only gotten better. He could get better next year and be ready for the summer of 2021.'

That doesn't exactly come as a surprise. Hayward may get a nice contract if he were to hit the open market this year, but it certainly wouldn't be anywhere near that eye-popping $34 million figure.

It makes far more sense for Hayward to take his money and test the market in 2021 if he and the Celtics don't agree on an extension before then. The 2021 free agent class will be much deeper, and teams will have more cap space to give Hayward a sizable long-term deal. That is, if he can duplicate the kind of success he's enjoyed so far this season.

Celtics Talk Podcast: Paul Pierce and Brian Scalabrine break down 2008 Finals Game 6 vs. L.A

Celtics Talk Podcast: Paul Pierce and Brian Scalabrine break down 2008 Finals Game 6 vs. L.A

With the 2019-20 NBA season suspended, what better time to relive the Boston Celtics' 2008 Finals run vs. the Los Angeles Lakers?

As part of NBC Sports Boston's "Classic Celtics" series, Paul Pierce and Brian Scalabrine took a trip down memory lane and watched their Game 6 series-clincher while providing some commentary.

In the latest Celtics Talk Podcast, you can listen to Pierce and Scal go quarter by quarter to get Pierce’s recollection of what it was like to win a championship in front of the Boston crowd.

Click here to listen and subscribe to the Celtics Talk Podcast:

Boston was 35-6 at home in the 2008 regular season and lost only one game at home in their playoff run. Pierce credits that success, and their dominant Game 6 performance, to the raucous fans at TD Garden.

We're at home, we've been a dominant home team ... you could just feel it. I don't know, it's just something about the Garden, man. You could just feel it. It was like, when the momentum was going, you know the type of runs we were capable of...

Just pulling up to the arena when you see everybody just all in the streets coming from the bars. And it was just like, when we were in the locker room before the game and you hear the chants of 'Beat L.A.," it's hard to hear in the locker room. Our crowd was that energetic and I just remember hearing that from the locker room. There's just something about the energy in that building, man. That's why we were so dominant at home throughout the playoffs.

After re-watching their dominant 131-92 win, Pierce reflected on what it felt like to finally walk off the court an NBA champion.

It was the best feeling in the world because you think about all the years from the time I started playing basketball, this is what it was all about. Making it to the NBA and winning a championship and doing it with the Boston Celtics ... 

I'm just ecstatic. I'm like man, these are my brothers for life. Everybody knows what we go through every day in practice. Everyday is not always smooth. We have arguments. But it's all for this moment and you can't -- those moments will never go away, man. They'll live with you forever.

NBC Sports Boston's Classic Celtics series will continue with a bunch of memorable games on the docket, including the C's 1986 showdown vs. Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls in the 1896 playoffs. That one is set to air Sunday night at 7 p.m.

To hear more from Pierce and Scal about their 2008 championship run, check out this week's episode of the Celtics Talk Podcast, available on the NBC Sports Boston Podcast Network and YouTube.