Jaylen Brown defends pairing with Tatum, “I think we can play together”
The pairing has worked well before — Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown have led two teams to the Eastern Conference Finals. This looked like a team on the cusp of serious title contention.
However, the last couple of years have been disappointments, including this season where the team is below .500 and would get the last play-in spot right now. Barely. Something is wrong with these Celtics, and it has led to calls to break up the Brown and Tatum pairing (which would almost certainly mean trading Brown).
After recording the first triple-double of his career, Brown defended his pairing with Tatum.
“I think we can play together. We have played together well for the majority of our career and things like that. The last year or so hasn’t gone as expected, but I think a lot of the adversity that we’re kind of going through now is going to help us grow and get better in the future. If we get over this slump and continue to learn, I think there’s a lot of good basketball on the other side of this. I only can control what I can control. I understand everybody has to do their jobs, but me and JT talk. We talked after the game, communicated with each other and things like that. So we’re on the same page. I get where all the other frustration comes from, but as long as I’m on the same page with him and he’s on the same page with me, that’s where we’re most focused on.”
When Brown and Tatum share the court this season, the Celtics have a +4.6 net rating, although most of that is due to an elite defense (the offense is the equivalent of bottom 10 in the league). Pair them with Marcus Smart at the point, Al Horford at the four and Robert Williams at the five and they are +15.6 ith a defense giving up less than a point per possession.
Celtics head man Brad Stevens sees that potential and apparently agrees with Brown. The buzz around the league heading into the trade deadline is the Celtics want to upgrade around their two elite wings, not break them up.
That doesn’t make watching these stumbling Celtics any easier (although they have a +1.7 net rating when garbage time is filtered out, suggesting the steam should be more like 22-18 rather than a couple of games below .500).
The Celtics are inconsistent, which leads to coach Ime Udoka calling out his team’s leadership and mental toughness. Boston just has been that way for a couple of seasons now, and if the Tatum/Brown pairing is going to stay, then Stevens needs to figure out what has to be better around them for it all to work? A true point guard who is more of a classic floor general to set the table? A scoring center? A stretch four?
Whatever it is, Brown does not sound like a guy who wants a divorce from Tatum. Now they and the front office just have to figure out how to get back on the trajectory they were on.