Former Boston Celtics center turned ESPN analyst Kendrick Perkins was the loudest among a growing number of people in and around the NBA, calling on his former team to trade Jayson Tatum or Jaylen Brown on January 7, the day after the day they blew a 25-point lead over the New York Knicks and fell out of the playoff picture.
“They can’t coexist,” Perkins told a national television audience.
It came three weeks after an unnamed general manager told Bleacher Report’s Jake Fischer of the development of the All-Star Wing tandem, “I think there’s a pretty widespread belief that they don’t work together. .”
Six months later, Tatum and Brown are on the precipice of their first NBA Finals appearance, having scored or assisted 45 of the Celtics’ 56 second-half points in Wednesday’s road win over the veteran Miami Heat in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals. Game 6 is Friday in Boston.
“We just have to go out and play some basketball,” Brown told reporters of his partnership with Tatum after Wednesday’s 93-80 victory. “We feel like there aren’t many people who can play basketball with the two of us. When he starts, when I start, we know we’re going to put ourselves in a good position to win.”
Brown is 25 years old. Friday’s elimination opportunity will be the 24th Conference Finals game of his career. Tatum is 24 and has been alongside Brown for three of the Celtics’ four Eastern Finals appearances since 2017. The idea of them breaking up now is as laughable to Boston’s front office as it was then. , only now the rest of the league has no choice but to acknowledge what Brad Stevens thought was ridiculous in January.
“They’re the least of my worries by far,” the Celtics manager told Jay King of The Athletic on January 17.
Even those conference finals haven’t been without criticism for the NBA’s top 25-and-under duo. Their combined 13 turnovers in the Game 3 loss raised doubts about their mental toughness against a Heat side that also bullied them in the 2020 Conference Finals. Kevin Durant’s Brooklyn Nets and Giannis Antetokounmpo’s reigning champion Milwaukee Bucks.
Tatum and Brown aren’t the players they were two years ago, and they’re miles away from a 3-2 lead over the Cleveland Cavaliers in the 2018 Conference Finals. They were 19 and 20 years old at the time. Neither had yet made an All-Star team or even averaged 15 points per game, but there they were, Boston’s top two playoff scorers with a chance to knock out LeBron James. and reach the NBA Finals.
The bubble was an even better chance, but Miami’s Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo put them through six games. Boston finished .500 last season, lost a lopsided first-round streak to the Nets, and looked just as mediocre to start this season. So, Tatum and Brown reunited after that Jan. 6 loss to the Knicks.
“We see all the things about ‘We can’t play together’ and everyone in the media is saying one of us has to go,” Tatum told reporters a few days later. “We just had a discussion about [how] we both want to be here and we both want to understand. There aren’t many players in the league like JB. The grass is not always greener. …
“I think the most important thing is that we both mean it extremely badly, and we want to try to figure it out together. For us, being on the same page is extremely important, knowing that we support each other. and that we’re going to give it our all to figure that out, no matter what people may say.”
Since then, the Celtics have become the most dominant team in the league. Tatum made the All-NBA First Team and Brown is knocking on the door of a third team selection. Together they pushed the Heat to the brink, and they will build on their experiences against James, Durant and Antetokounmpo – the only others besides Miami to beat them in a playoff series – with their last and best title on the line. . line.
You might think Tatum and Brown are finished products, given how often we’ve seen them on this stage. Brown is one of eight players in NBA history to play more than 75 playoff games before turning 26, and only Kobe Bryant had more playoff points than Tautm’s 1,508 at his age. . (The late Los Angeles Lakers legend needed 10 more games and 124 more field goal attempts to get there.) They rise in thin air.
No one is wondering if the Celtics should part ways with either of them anymore. Instead, we wonder how long they could play together and what they could accomplish before they’re done. Brown is signed through 2024 and Tatum can enter free agency in 2025, but they’re confident they can win a title this year, and that might be enough to convince them to tie their careers to Boston for their bounties.
First of all. One more win over Miami, and the three-time champion Golden State Warriors are likely awaiting the Finals. Months after Jayson and Jaylen vowed to “find out,” the NBA is theirs.
As Tatum tried to explain to everyone on JJ Redick’s ‘Old Man and the Three’ podcast in February, “I couldn’t imagine why you wouldn’t want to have two of the best players under 25 in your team.”
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Ben Rohrbach is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Do you have any advice? Email him at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @brohrbach