Celtics

Celtics Spotlight: Is Jayson Tatum ready for the leap that didn't happen last season?

Celtics Spotlight: Is Jayson Tatum ready for the leap that didn't happen last season?

When Jayson Tatum’s 14-foot fadeaway clanged off the front iron on his first shot of the 2019 preseason last week against Charlotte, it was fair to wonder if he was truly committed to hunting better shots this season. 

He followed with two finger rolls, including one over two defenders after attacking off the dribble from the high post, and a corner 3-pointer — all of this in little more than a minute span — and Celtics fans were probably a little woozy thinking about what could be this season.

Celtic Spotlights: Walker | Smart | Brown | Hayward | Williams 

Tatum has since owned his sophomore struggles, dismissed those that want to blame Kobe Bryant for his mid-range penchant last year, and reaffirmed a desire to make the sort of leap that even he was expecting last season.

The formula for that leap might be as simple as embracing a high-efficiency shot profile and letting his natural talents take over. And the preseason glimpses have been super encouraging.

It’s a successful season for Tatum if… 

…he keeps his promise to prioritize 3-pointers and layups. Tatum’s shot chart early in the preseason has been an analytics dream with nearly half of his attempts beyond the 3-point arc and another 40 percent from 10 feet or closer. Good things happened when Tatum was on the court last season, despite his questionable shot selection, and even better things will happen if he maximizes his offensive efficiency. A really successful season might just be Tatum emerging as Boston’s No. 1 offensive option by the time the playoffs roll around. 

It’s a disappointing season for Tatum if… 

…he falls into old habits of settling for mid-range jumpers and lazy fadeaways. Yes, he’s talented enough to make a lot of those shots, and still will. But he’s also good enough to probe off the pick and roll, get defenders off the ground with a head fake, and finish closer to the rim.  It’d be disappointing if he wasn’t in the conversation for a trip to the All-Star Game. 

2019-2020 Outlook

Thirty-five NBA players averaged 20 points or more per game last season. Even with all the obvious offensive talent that Boston has on its roster this season, Tatum should be in that category this year. He must play with more of a killer instinct and be someone that wants the ball in his hands in crunch time or when things are going sideways for the Celtics. But, building off what Gregg Popovich stressed to him at the FIBA World Championships, Tatum must also find ways to impact the game beyond scoring — whether that's with his length on the defensive end or being able to create for others when defenses collapse on him. Tatum has only scratched the surface of his potential to this point.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Celtics easily on your device.

Celtics' Marcus Smart (ankle) probable for Wednesday game vs. Clippers

Celtics' Marcus Smart (ankle) probable for Wednesday game vs. Clippers

Marcus Smart is listed as probable for the Celtics' Wednesday night game in against the Clippers in Los Angeles after the guard had to leave the Monday night win in Phoenix with a scary-looking ankle sprain. 

Smart vowed after the game Monday that he would play against the Clippers even after being helped off the court when he was injured in the fourth quarter.

Smart appeared to be moving well on the ankle Tuesday, according to Celtics.com's Marc D'Amico.

Gordon Hayward, recovering from the fractured bone in his hand and expected back around Christmas, is out for the Celtics. 

The Celtics (11-2) sit atop the Eastern Conference standings. Following an opening night loss to the Philadelphia 76ers, Boston won its next 10 before losing to the Sacramento Kings by one point on Sunday and bounced back with the 99-85 victory in Phoenix on Monday night. 

They'll take on the Clippers on Wednesday and Denver Nuggets on Friday to complete their Western trip before returning home to face the Kings and Brooklyn Nets next week. 

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

 

Shoulder injury casts doubt on Kyrie Irving playing against Celtics next week

Shoulder injury casts doubt on Kyrie Irving playing against Celtics next week

Brooklyn Nets point guard, and former Celtic, Kyrie Irving may not play against Boston next week -- shocker, right?

The 27-year-old already has been ruled out for the Nets matchup Wednesday with the Charlotte Hornets with a shoulder impingement. It'll be the third game in a row he's missed and the Nets are 1-1 without him. 

Irving has only eight days to recover from the injury before a highly-anticipated return to TD Garden on Thanksgiving Eve. If he misses the remainder of the Nets' games this week, it's more than likely he won't play in Boston -- especially considering he'll be in for a rather unfriendly reception from C's fans.

He certainly didn't leave Boston on a high note after first committing to re-sign with the Celtics, then backing off that in what became a disappointing season where his leadership was questioned and he had well-publicized differences with his younger teammates. That led to his eventual free-agent departure to Brooklyn to join his friend Kevin Durant, who is out for the season after tearing his Achilles in the NBA Finals with Golden State. It appears there are leadership questions in Brooklyn, too, after reports of his "mood swings" irritating Nets' officials. 

Nonetheless, through 11 games, Irving is averaging 28.5 points, 5.4 rebounds and 7.2 assists. If he does end up playing against the Celtics, his reception, and how he performs against his old teammates, will be interesting to watch. 

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