Jayson Tatum and Bradley Beal, reunited at long last?
The Boston Celtics forward and Washington Wizards guard, both St. Louis natives, go way back to when the latter mentored the former as a young kid.
While Beal has been a "big brother" to Tatum as he's developed into an NBA superstar, the two have never played on the same team. That could change at the 2021 NBA All-Star Game Sunday in Atlanta if LeBron James or Kevin Durant (the two All-Star captains) add both St. Louisans to their squad.
Tatum admitted Sunday he's pretty excited about that possibility.
"I’ve never, in organized basketball, played on the same team with him,” Tatum said of Beal after the Celtics' 111-110 win over Washington. "So, that’d be special for us if we can. It's going to be our first All-Star game together, but hopefully, we’ll be on the same team."
Tatum's comments may raise eyebrows considering Beal has been mentioned as a potential trade target. Although the 27-year-old recently signed a contract extension with the Wizards through 2023 (with a player option for 2022), he's wasting his prime on one of the NBA's worst teams.
Tatum, who said he and Beal "talk daily," clearly would love to join Beal at some point in his career. Beal shares respect for his young mentee, even if the 22-year-old's late-game heroics Sunday night left him a little salty.
"He’s a special talent," Beal told reporters after Tatum scored six unanswered points in the final 45 seconds to seal the victory. "Everybody knows our relationship. Everybody knows we compete but we pull for each other. I’m pissed off he actually got to get going against us."
So, if Tatum and Beal want to team up, could they do it in Boston? As our Chris Forsberg explained recently, a Beal deal in the short term seems unlikely. The Wizards star's $28.8 million salary this season doesn't fit under the Celtics' traded player exception. The C's also would have to send Washington a massive trade package likely centered around Jaylen Brown and future draft assets and still would be in a major cap crunch with Tatum, Beal and Kemba Walker on their roster.
If Beal makes it to free agency, perhaps Boston can reassess. Or maybe Tatum and Beal will hatch a plan to play elsewhere. But expect the two to be joined at the hip in Atlanta this weekend if they land on the same team.