Earlier this week, Boston Celtics general manager Danny Ainge was put on the hot seat on Toucher & Rich when he was asked if Jayson Tatum is a top-10 player in the NBA. In response, Ainge danced around the question and did his best to give Tatum his due without over-hyping him.
“I haven’t gone through the whole league, but he’s right in that category,” he said.
Ainge similarly balked when asked whether he thought that Tatum could be an MVP-level player.
Given his lofty position on the team, Tatum’s relative youth and the massive growth that the Celtics must exhibit before they retake their seat at the contender’s table, it stands to reason that Ainge would want to temper expectations for his star somewhat. However, not everyone is subject to such constraints.
On the eve of Game 1 of Boston’s first-round playoff series with the Brooklyn Nets, one of the opposition’s key cogs — and a former NBA MVP in his own right — had a lot to say about Tatum.
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Kevin Durant Sings Tatum’s Praises
During the Nets’ Friday media availability, Kevin Durant was probed for his opinion of Tatum. He made no bones about the fact that he’s a big-time fan of the Celtics star.
For Durant, Tatum’s consistency in the face of Boston’s myriad obstacles is what has really stood out about him.
“The best thing I’ve seen about J.T. is how he stays the same no matter what the lineup is, guys are in and out, he got COVID, his running mate is out for the rest of season, Kemba [Walker] was in and out of the lineup, and he stayed solid,” Durant said, via NBC Sports Boston.
“The way he played the game, he never changed his style,” he added. “From scoring from the top of the key, from the post, from either side of the floor, adding passing into his game. … He has some blinders on; focused in and developing and continuing to grow as a player. That’s what I admired the most from afar.”
The Nets star and 2014 NBA MVP sees Tatum doing some of the same things he has done throughout his own career. Specifically, taking the opposition’s best shot as the primary focus of their defensive efforts and still managing to put up numbers.
“At this point, people are throwing everything at him and he’s handling it pretty well.”
Tatum’s Big Night Sheds Light on NBA’s Strange Stat-Keeping
During Tuesday’s play-in win over the Washington Wizards, Tatum had one of his best-ever games to help his team clinch the East’s No. 7 seed. In 41 minutes of play, the 23-year-old scored 50 points on 32 shots, making all 17 of his free-throw attempts and adding eight rebounds and four assists.
Good luck finding any of that in the NBA record books, though.
According to The Athletic’s Joe Vardon, the NBA won’t recognize Tatum’s 50-piece as a playoff statistic. The same is also true of LeBron James’ triple-double in the LA Lakers’ play-in win over the Golden State Warriors.
Curiously, play-in stats won’t count towards the regular season, either. So Tatum’s big night currently exists in a strange vacuum that you probably won’t be able to find in many statistical databases currently. Nevertheless, it still stands with his other recent outbursts as one of the greatest scoring efforts in team history.
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