Celtics

Did Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown pick Team USA numbers to honor Celtics legends?

Did Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown pick Team USA numbers to honor Celtics legends?

LAS VEGAS — Jayson Tatum offered a sly grin while he pondered the question about his Team USA jersey number but his conscience wouldn’t let him tell a fib.

"I could lie and say I picked it for my man Paul [Pierce] but I didn’t. They gave it to me,” Tatum said of the No. 34 on his training camp jersey. “I don’t know if it was on purpose or a coincidence, but I like 34.”

When Team USA released its numeric roster before the start of this week’s training camp in Las Vegas, the number choices for Tatum and Jaylen Brown (33) left many Celtics fans wondering if the young guys were offering subtle nods to a couple of Celtics legends.

It turns out that none of the Celtics in Vegas picked their own jersey number.

"I don’t know, it just kinda happened,” said Brown. "But it’s an honor just to have the jersey, in general.”

Was Brown aware that Celtics fans thought he chose No. 33 for Bird, who, ironically, wore No. 7 — Brown’s regular-season number — for the 1992 Dream Team?

"Absolutely. And it’s a very very great feeling to be attached to that,” said Brown. "I’m just happy to have a jersey at all. Just come out, play the best version of myself, and compete against these guys, and show that I can play at a high level, too.”

Marcus Smart is wearing No. 40 at camp. Asked why he chose that, he laughed and responded, “I didn’t.” Kemba Walker pulled at his No. 26 jersey and joked, “Oh, this isn’t my number.” Hey, at least 2+6 = his new Celtics jersey No. 8 (which, of course, once belonged to Antoine Walker).

A Team USA spokesman said that jersey numbers are randomly assigned, typically with sizing considerations. Those in training camp this year range from Kyle Kuzma at No. 21 to Khris Middleton with No. 57 (one of five players in the 50s). 

As Walker hinted, USA Basketball assigns the final 12-man roster numbers ranging from 4 to 15. FIBA allows teams to wear numbers outside that range but Team USA has maintained the tradition of that lower range to keep with the legacy of past teams, according to a spokesman.

Tatum spent time with Pierce in his rookie season and later declared he wanted to be “the next Paul Pierce,” by spending his entire career in Boston. The significance of wearing No. 34 is not lost on him, regardless of who decided on those digits.

“[Pierce] was one of the best players ever,” said Tatum. "Obviously, top 2 Celtics [scorer] of all-time. And somebody I admire.”

Celtics fans should hope Tatum’s Team USA experience goes better than Pierce’s did. Team USA settled for a disastrous sixth-place finish in the 2002 FIBA World Championships, games that were held on U.S. soil, no less. That year, a starless roster struggled and Team USA’s 58-game international winning streak was snapped while some of the league’s top stars did not participate due to injury or simply seeking rest.

The 2019 squad has likewise seen much of its star power elect to sit out this year, opening the door for younger players like Brown and Tatum to take center stage.

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Five things you should know about this Celtics-Kings matchup

Five things you should know about this Celtics-Kings matchup

There have been strong scoring nights, defensive slugfests and everything in between, for the Boston Celtics who come into today’s game at Sacramento riding a league-best winning streak of 10 in a row. 

And with five straight games out West, the Celtics got things off on the right foot with a 105-100 win at Golden State, the fourth time in the last five years Boston won on the Warriors’ home floor. 

Boston has won its last two games on the Kings’ home floor, and three of the last four. 

Here are five more things you should know about this matchup.

NO FOX HUNTING

The Boston Celtics won’t have to worry about chasing Sacramento point guard De’Aaron Fox around today after the lightning quick point guard reportedly suffered a Grade-3 ankle sprain (the most severe kind) early last week. The injury is supposed to keep him sidelined for at least a month. Fox is averaging a career-high 18.2 points per game this season, along with seven assists and four rebounds which is also a career-best mark for the third-year guard. 

TATUM PART OF EXCLUSIVE CLUB

The scoring by Jayson Tatum this season is a clue as to how much of an impact the third-year forward is making when he’s on the court.

This season, the Celtics have a plus/minus of +134 when Tatum is in the game. How big a deal is that? There are only three players whose plus/minus thus far this season exceeds 100. There’s LeBron James of the Los Angeles Lakers, Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks and Tatum. That’s it. And of the trio, the plus/minus leader is Tatum followed by James (+109) and Antetokounmpo (+107).

Sacramento’s leader is Richaun Holmes (+31).

TRIPLE THREAT

Prepare to see lot of 3-pointers go down tonight for both Boston and Sacramento. Each team has weaponized the 3-point shot as a key to their offensive strategy this season. The Kings come into today’s game averaging 13.3 made 3-pointers per game which ranks sixth in the NBA. Right behind them at No. 7 is the Boston Celtics who are averaging 13.0 made 3-pointers per game this season.

Leading the 3-point barrage for the Kings is Buddy Hield, one of the league’s top 3-point shooters. He’s averaging 3.6 made 3-pointers per game this season which is good for the No. 4 spot in the NBA. Right ahead of him at No. 3 is Boston’s Kemba Walker who is connecting on 4.3 made 3-pointers per game. 

KINGS GET CROWNED DOWN THE STRETCH

If the Celtics find themselves trailing in the early stages of today’s game, it probably will have more to do with the Kings than anything the Celtics are doing. Several factors have contributed to Sacramento’s 4-7 start this season, but how they begin games scoring the ball isn’t one of them.

Sacramento is +2.4 points per game after the first quarter of play this season which ranks tied for the fourth-best mark in the NBA this season. However, they are a bottom-10 team when it comes to plus/minus in the fourth quarter (-1.3 points, 21st in the league). Meanwhile, the Celtics’ plus-minus of +4.4 in the fourth is second in the NBA to the Los Angeles Clippers (+5.2). 

PAINT PATROL

Minimizing points in the paint is one of the bigger concerns about the Boston Celtics coming into this season. But to their credit, they have done a solid job of not allowing that to be an issue that gets in the way of winning. Boston is allowing 44.2 points in the paint this season which is the eighth-fewest points in the paint allowed per game this season.

Today the Celtics face a Sacramento team that has struggled in many facets of the game with scoring in the paint being among them. This is evident by Sacramento’s offense generating a league-low 39.8 points in the paint per game. 

Don’t miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-Kings, which tips off Sunday at 3 p.m. ET with Celtics Pregame Live, and then Mike & Scal have the call of the game at 3:30 p.m. You can also stream the game through the MyTeams App.

Boston Celtics vs. Sacramento Kings live stream: How to watch online

Boston Celtics vs. Sacramento Kings live stream: How to watch online

The Boston Celtics (10-1) were able to extend their winning streak to 10 games on Friday night in a tightly contested game against the Golden State Warriors. Now, their west coast road trip will continue with a game against another California team.

The C's are taking on the Sacramento Kings (4-7) in what should be an entertaining game. The Kings started off the season slowly, but they are 4-2 in their past six games. They dropped a Friday night clash with the Los Angeles Lakers, but they only lost by two points. So, it's safe to say that they know how to compete with top-tier teams.

All eyes will be on Celtics wing Jaylen Brown in this game. He has posted four straight games with at least 22 points and he'll look to keep his scoring streak going on the road.

Be sure to tune into NBC Sports Boston for Celtics Pregame Live at 3 p.m., followed by the game at 3:30 or stream it via the MyTeams app. 

HOW TO WATCH

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ANALYSIS AND REACTION

BEFORE THE GAME: At 3 p.m., Celtics Pregame Live presented by TD Bank gets you ready for the game with reports from Kyle Draper, Tommy HeinsohnMike Gorman, Brian Scalabrine, A. Sherrod Blakely, Chris Forsberg, and Abby Chin. Watch on NBC Sports Boston or click here for the live stream.

AT HALFTIME: Tune in to watch a breakdown of the first two quarters on Halftime Live presented by Ace Ticket. Watch on NBC Sports Boston or click here for the live stream.

AFTER THE GAME: As soon as the game ends, tune to Celtics Postgame Live presented by New England Ford for analysis, commentary and player reaction. Watch on NBC Sports Boston or click here for the live stream

Questions on our livestream? Get all your questions answered here on our Streaming FAQ.

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Don’t miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-Kings, which tips off Sunday at 3 p.m. ET with Celtics Pregame Live, and then Mike & Scal have the call of the game at 3:30 p.m. You can also stream the game through the MyTeams App.