NBA – How Jayson Tatum’s Celtics Finally Became Real Title Candidates

Three years ago, in 2019, the Celtics were punched in the face by law from Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Bucks in the second round of the playoffs. They recovered the following season, before falling to the brink of the NBA Finals by losing to the Heat in the Disney bubble. Then the Nets made short work of it in the first round last year. Boston, therefore, has just released its last three executioners in quick succession — in order: Brooklyn, Milwaukee, then Miami — in this revenge drive. The Massachusetts franchise is back in the finals, twelve years after its last stint (a 4-3 loss to the Lakers in 2010).

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The Celtics now face the Warriors. Except there is no rivalry or special experience between these two teams. The lack of experience at this stage of the competition leans even more in favor of Stephen Curry and his comrades, who are playing their sixth final in eight seasons. Even if that means getting there, you might as well give it your all to make it to the end. Moral victory usually remains a myth. Finals are played with the ambition to win. But just getting to the most prestigious stage of the playoffs is an achievement for Boston. †Finally“even Marcus Smart loose.”We have been through a lot. Blood Sweat and tears. We’ve been able to qualify every year and we’ve always lost. We had to look in the mirror. It had to hurt.


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Success and disappointments too soon

However, this group shows a sacred regularity at the summits of their conference. The Celtics played 4 finals in the East in 6 seasons. But without ever crossing the line. Until this year. In fact, the Celtics have been close to scoring for a long time and, paradoxically, this team gives the impression of being just born. Or rather, to hatch. Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, his two All-Stars, have been center stage for a while now. Back in 2018, they made the Cavaliers doubt LeBron James by pushing them to an epic Game 7 when Tatum barely made his professional debut. Enough to suggest that they would come back stronger, maybe much stronger in the coming years. So yes, they came back. But they also disappointed. They cringed when they were expected and surprised when they weren’t. Trials that helped them grow as a team.

Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown (Boston Celtics) on October 20, 2021 in the NBA

Credit: Getty Images

“It hurts to lose all those stripes. It’s hard. But you never forget. I think that’s what we all have in common in this dressing room. We’ve had all those moments and we remember what it feels like. explains Tatum.

We didn’t even really believe it anymore. Especially after an outdoor season in 2021 marked by the departure of Danny Ainge, the architect of this Celtics formation. The former Boston president backed the transfer of aging Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett in exchange for several draft picks. Including the one that led to the arrival of Jaylen Brown (third pick in 2016) and Jayson Tatum (third pick in 2017). The latter was also the result of another transaction: the Celtics sent the first pick of the draft to the Sixers to additionally restore the third and other selections.

A genius idea since Tatum eventually became the best player in his promotion. But despite a bundle of potential bargaining chips, Ainge failed to find the extra superstar he was hoping for. His firing opened the door to an unexpected job change for Brad Stevens. Considered one of the best NBA tacticians, Stevens was promoted to lead the team, leaving the baton to Ime Udoka on the bench. Udoka, a longtime assistant in the NBA, inherited his first job as a coach.

Boston, the best NBA team in 2022

Changes that called for others and gave the impression that the Celtics might even try to usher in another transition period. We wondered if they hadn’t left to upset the staff, for example by separating from key players like Brown or Marcus Smart. Their names circulated in the stream of rumours. Especially after Boston’s failed start to the season. The franchise grew in the middle of the standings in the East, with no real prospects of going for the title this season. But rather than give in to the temptation to rebuild on the job, Stevens and the other leaders preferred to trust their men. †The whole organization trusted us. The coaches, the staff and the entire franchise gave us our chance to solve our problems. We grew up and all these hardships have done us good in the end“, Smart testifies. It took them well. A few months later, the green tunics are in the final with four holders drafted by the club (Tatum, Brown, Smart and Robert Williams). That is as many as their opponents, the Warriors.

If the team didn’t burst to pieces, it’s also because it went through a metamorphosis in early 2022. The players themselves admit that they have doubts. †It was difficult. There have been times when we wondered if we could achieve this. There were times when I wondered if I was good enough to be the kind of guy to take over his franchise altogether.“says Jayson Tatum. Publicly criticized for his lack of altruism by Marcus Smart in the middle of the season, the young winger has been the protagonist in the change in the face of his training. He has matured.

Sometimes too inclined to force his shots, Kobe Bryant’s apprentice has learned to let the game come to him more often, while involving his comrades. An adjustment that made him even harder to comprehend. With an average of 27 points, 7 rebounds and 6 assists, he is simply one of the best players in these playoffs. And he in turn knocked out Kevin Durant, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jimmy Butler.

In addition to its evolution, and Brown’s, the Udoka leg decreased little by little. His flock has assimilated his principles after a rocky start and now forms an impressive defense. Maybe even the best in the Premier League. They relied on finishing the last three months of the season with the best record, moving up to second place in their Conference, before smothering their playoff counterparts. Maybe we should just give them time. Here they are today full of confidence. And with two stars under 26, the Celtics are once again in a position to dominate the NBA for several years. Except this time they now have a real team around.

Boston Celtics

Credit: Getty Images


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