Please assign a menu to the primary menu location under menu

News

Celtics’ Jayson Tatum creating ‘level of separation’ in MVP race



When Jayson Tatum goes up against fellow NBA superstars, he’s not only putting up gaudy numbers but more often than not, the Celtics are winning – and that’s one of the biggest indicators of why he’s the MVP frontrunner as the season approaches its midway point.

Tatum’s 41-point performance on Christmas Day to beat Giannis Antetekounmpo and the Bucks was his latest masterpiece against another MVP candidate that has made his candidacy for the award even stronger.

When ESPN released its first MVP straw poll of the season earlier this month – as media members across the league submitted their early-season ballots – Tatum came in on top. The Celtics star has beaten seven of the nine players who make up the rest of the Top 10 in head-to-head matchups this season – Antetekounmpo, Luka Doncic, Nikola Jokic, Ja Morant, Kevin Durant, Devin Booker and Joel Embiid. Tatum and the Celtics are 7-1 against the Top 10 MVP candidates, with the lone loss coming to Steph Curry’s Warriors. Tatum is averaging 32.3 points and 8.3 rebounds per game in those matchups.

“Those matchups are fun,” Tatum said. “You get to play against the other best players, and it just raises your level of play. The competition is exciting, but that’s the games that you live for. The moments, the matchups. If you can’t get up for those games, then you’re probably in the wrong profession.”

Not surprisingly, Tatum’s teammates have no problem pushing their leader’s candidacy. Malcolm Brogdon has said Tatum is the frontrunner. Grant Williams thinks Tatum has clearly separated himself from the pack.

“It would be different if he was getting those numbers and we were losing,” Williams said. “To get those numbers and also win the game, it just shows the level of separation that he has with some of these guys and stars. …

“JT’s done a great job of making sure everybody’s involved. (Marcus) Smart has the ball in his hands a lot of the game, J.B. (Jaylen Brown) has the ball in his hands a portion of the game. He does a great job of facilitating and also scoring for himself and he’s very efficient at what he does. It’s special to see what he’s doing right now. The way he’s shooting the ball, the way he’s putting pressure on the rim, he’s commanding double teams and making the right read. He’s done a phenomenal job over the course of the season.”

Tatum’s greatest strengths are offensively, but he’s come into his own on defense, too, which may be an overlooked part of his candidacy. He’s always had All-Defense potential because of his size and frame, and Williams thinks he should be considered.

“J.T.’s drawing the No. 1 matchup every single night as well as score 40 points and doing everything else and playmake for everybody else,” Williams said. “He’s a special player and the future face of this league. …

“He’s a first-team All-Defensive candidate, too,” Williams added. “As much as he is in (the) MVP (race), he’s also part of the group that’s first-team All-Defense. He’s done a phenomenal job of taking ownership of those matchups, even when he’s not guarding No. 1 guys. … He’s been doing it all since the day the season started. You can tell he’s playing with a vengeance in mind.”

Silas touched by tribute

It’s always special for Rockets head coach Stephen Silas to return to Boston but Tuesday night was more meaningful after his dad, former Celtics player Paul Silas, died earlier this month. The Celtics were giving out green pins with “Silas” written on them in black lettering to honor Paul, who won two titles with the Celtics in 1974 and 1976.

“It means a lot,” Silas said. “It really does mean a lot. He considered himself a Celtic for sure, he was only here for four years. But he won two championships. And growing up, that’s what he was: He was a Celtic. For them to do that, it means a ton to just me and my family and my friends. It’s really just a classy, classy thing to do.”

Silas said that whenever he comes back to Boston, he thinks about the impact his dad made on the organization. He’s taken many lessons from his dad, who spent more than 40 years in the NBA as a player and coach, and he and his family have been touched by the reception they’ve gotten around the league over the last few weeks.

After Silas called a timeout with 5:27 left in the first quarter, the Celtics showed a montage of his father’s highlights with the Celtics on the video board at TD Garden.

“I was blessed to be my father’s son, so I can empathize and see how he handled players and do my best to my Paul Silas impression at times,” Silas said. “But he was just such a good, good man. The amazing thing is we’re like staggered as a family as far as the reception we’ve gotten and the tributes that have happened and the pin and all the moments of silence. We always thought he was a great man, and for everybody to see it the same way we see it is really, really just a great thing. … I’m so proud to be his son.”

Mazzulla ruled out

Celtics interim head coach Joe Mazzulla was ruled out of Tuesday’s game moments before opening tip due to eye irritation. Mazzulla conducted his pregame press conference but he was squinting and looked uncomfortable. Assistant coach Damon Stoudamire took over as the acting head coach. …

Payton Pritchard also missed Tuesday’s game due to a right thigh contusion. Robert Williams was listed as questionable due to a non-COVID illness, but was cleared to play.



Source link