Celtics

Marcus Smart expects to return for Team USA vs. Greece

Marcus Smart expects to return for Team USA vs. Greece

While Jayson Tatum is still nursing an ankle sprain that kept him out of Team USA's blowout of Japan at the FIBA World Cup, his Celtics and US teammate Marcus Smart practiced and expects to play against Giannis Antetokounmpo and Greece on Saturday morning (8:30) in China. 

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Paul Pierce gets his wish, will join these stars in NBA HORSE challenge

Paul Pierce gets his wish, will join these stars in NBA HORSE challenge

The NBA listened to Paul Pierce.

The Boston Celtics legend will be one of the eight players to compete in the league's virtual "HORSE Challenge," which begins Sunday night.

The NBA announced the full roster of participants Thursday, and Pierce -- who tweeted he's "in" on the event when it was first reported last Saturday -- will face Chicago Bulls guard Zach LaVine in the opening round.

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Here are the four first-round matchups, which will air Sunday on ESPN between 7 and 9 p.m. ET:

Group 1
- Atlanta Hawks guard Trae Young vs. former Detroit Pistons guard Chauncey Billups
- WNBA legend Tamika Catchings vs. Utah Jazz guard Mike Conley

Group 2
- Pierce vs. LaVine
- Oklahoma City Thunder guard Chris Paul vs. Chicago Sky guard Allie Quigley

The two Group 1 winners and two Group 2 winners will face off Thursday, April 16, in the semifinal round, with the championship game immediately following.

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Pierce has his work cut out for him with LaVine, one of the most athletic players in the NBA. But the retired Celtics star is a crafty veteran with plenty of tricks up his sleeve -- and LaVine won't be able to use his most lethal weapon.

This should be a pretty cool watch, as the eight participants will be filmed putting up trick shots from their isolated home courts amid the coronavirus pandemic.

"Players must describe each shot attempt, specifying the type of score they intend to make before taking a shot, such as a bank shot or swish," the NBA said in its release about the tournament.

And yes, dunking is prohibited. So, dust off that Pierce Celtics jersey on Sunday night and revel in a live sporting event, for a change.

Jayson Tatum gives MVP pick, lists best NBA players at each position

Jayson Tatum gives MVP pick, lists best NBA players at each position

The games have stopped, but the debates certainly haven't.

Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum killed some time in self-isolation Wednesday night by going on Instagram Live with basketball skills coach Pep Stanciel.

Stanciel first asked Tatum to name the best player in the NBA, and the 22-year-old deferred to his elder: Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James.

"This is LeBron's 28th year in the league (editor's note: 17th season) and he was gonna win MVP," Tatum said.

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Milwaukee Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo actually was the odds-on favorite to repeat as NBA MVP before the league shut down due to coronavirus on March 11.

But Tatum apparently doesn't believe Antetokounmpo deserved MVP last season, either.

"James Harden should have won MVP last year," Tatum said. " ... He definitely should have won back-to-back MVPs."

The Houston Rockets star led the NBA in scoring by a wide margin in 2018-19 (36.1 points per game) but also attempted the most shots and plays a controversial, ball-dominant game.

Still, Tatum thinks James and Harden are the best players at their respective positions right now. Here's the Celtics star's All-NBA starting five, after some prodding from Stanciel:

Point Guard: Stephen Curry
Shooting Guard: James Harden
Small Forward: LeBron James
Power Forward: Anthony Davis
Center: Joel Embiid

It's hard to imagine an All-NBA starting five that doesn't include Antetokounmpo, but this is an otherwise solid list.

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Kevin Durant and Kawhi Leonard both get honorable mentions here, as Tatum ranked them as the second- and third-best players in the league behind James. (You could argue Durant is a power forward, but maybe his current injury led Tatum to pick Davis in that category.)

Tatum didn't name any current or former Celtics -- You didn't think he'd pick ex-teammate Kyrie Irving at point guard, did you? -- but no Boston player is even in the conversation right now.

Tatum was on a trajectory to change that before the season went on hold, but for now, we'll have to settle for his basketball takes over watching him play.