The Boston Celtics are set to begin their 2021-22 season Wednesday night when they visit the New York Knicks. As the new campaign gets underway, C's stars Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown enter with new goals and expectations.
The All-Star tandem aims to make another noticeable leap in Years 4 and 5 of their NBA careers, respectively. Given how quickly Tatum and Brown have improved since entering the league, Celtics head coach-turned-president of basketball operations Brad Stevens won't be surprised to see that happen.
"They've made amazing strides the last four and five years, in large part due to their own work and the level of commitment that they have," Stevens recently told NBC Sports Boston.
Al Horford, who played with Tatum and Brown from 2016-19, is back for a second stint with the Celtics. The veteran big man now sees two players who have changed quite a bit since he first joined the organization.
"It's just been impressive how quickly they've been able to develop," he said. "Offensively, their fluidity, their comfort level and just their confidence has gone through the roof."
Enes Kanter, another big man back for his second stint with the team, believes the sky is the limit for Tatum.
"I was working out with Tatum this summer, and he's definitely next level because his body's just changed so much," Kanter said. "His goal should be top-five in the league, and I believe that when I say it."
Now the question is, what needs to happen for Tatum and Brown to make that leap this season with Boston? Marcus Smart, the longest-tenured Celtic, believes the key is more time spent working together.
"This year, more trying to be as much as we can involved with each other," Smart said. "Not just coming to film when we're at the facility with the coaches, but doing it on our own even more and really studying the game even more together and learning together."
So, what does the next step look like for Tatum, who will look to earn the third All-Star nod of his young career and propel Boston through the postseason?
"I think being more efficient and just dominating," he said. "I got a long way to go, I understand that. There's a lot I have to improve on and I think that's the exciting part for me that I want to get better, I know I can get better from what I'm currently doing now."
As for Brown, he'll be making an effort to improve his playmaking. How will he make that happen?
"Film," he said. "It doesn't necessarily have to be on the court. Watch a lot of the great playmakers in the league and try to emulate some of the strategies and things that they do to help with your playmaking ability. A lot of it is just really breaking down the details of who are great playmakers and how they are great playmakers."
It won't be easy. Tatum and Brown once again will be the primary focus of every opponent throughout the season. But at this point, it'd be foolish to bet against two of the NBA's rising superstars.
"The next steps are way harder, and those steps are not for everyone," Stevens said. "So they're just going to have to keep at it, and I know that they will."
Hear more from the Celtics on their two All-Stars in the video above.