Former Boston Celtics center ESPN analyst Kendrick Perkins was the strongest among a growing number of people in and around the NBA asking his former team to trade either Jason Tatum or Jalen Brown at 7 p.m. January, the next day they took a 25-point lead over the New York Knicks and dropped out of the playoffs.
“They can not coexist,” Perkins told a national television audience.
That was three weeks after an anonymous CEO told Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report, All-Star’s growing wing tandem, “I think there is a widespread belief that they are not working together.”
Six months later, Tatum and Brown stand on the precipice of their first NBA Finals appearance, having scored or assisted 45 of the Celtics’ 56 points in the second half in Wednesday’s 4-0 win over the Miami Heat in their 5th game. the finals of the Eastern Region. The 6th race is on Friday in Boston.
“We just have to go out and play basketball,” Brown told reporters about his work with Tatum after Wednesday’s 93-80 victory. “We feel that there are not many people who can play basketball with the two of us. When he starts, when I start, we know we will put ourselves in a good position to win.”
Brown is 25 years old. The opportunity to be eliminated on Friday will be the 24th match of the finals of the conference of his career. Tatum is 24 years old and has been with Brown for three of the Celtics’ four appearances in Eastern Conference Finals since 2017. The thought of splitting them up now is as funny for Boston front offices as it was then, only now the rest league has no choice but to acknowledge what Brad Stevens considered ridiculous in January.
“It’s by far the least of my concerns,” the Celtics executive told The Athletic’s Jay King on January 17.
Even these conference finals have not canceled criticism of the best duo of 25 years and under in the NBA. Their 13 combined turnovers in Game 3 defeat were met with doubts about their mental resilience against a team of Heat who were also intimidated in the 2020 conference finals. How quickly people forgot about their efforts against Kevin’s Brooklyn Nets Durand and defender Milwaukee Bucks champion Giannis Antitokoumbo.
Tatum and Brown are not the players they were two years ago and are miles away from a 3-2 lead over the Cleveland Cavaliers in the 2018 conference finals. They were 19 and 20 respectively. Neither of them had yet to play in an All-Star game nor averaged 15 points per game, but there were the top two Boston playoff scorers with the opportunity to eliminate LeBron James and reach the NBA Finals. .
The bubble was an even better opportunity, but Jimmy Butler and Miami’s Bam Adebayo made it to six games. Boston finished last season with 0,500, lost a one-sided first-round series to the Nets and looked mediocre to start this season. So Tatum and Brown came together after that defeat on January 6 by the Knicks.
“We see all the things about ‘We Can’t Play Together,’ and everyone in the media is saying that one of us should leave,” Tatum told reporters a few days later. “We just talked [how] we both want to be here and we both want to understand it. There are not many players in the league like JB. The grass is not always greener. …
“I think the most important thing is that we both want it very badly and we want to try to understand it together. we will give everything we have to understand it, regardless of what people may say “.
Since then, the Celtics are the most dominant team in the league. Tatum made the first team in the All-NBA and Brown knocks on the door of a third team. Together, they have pushed the Heat to the brink and will build on their experiences with James, Durand and Antitokunbo – the only ones other than Miami to ever beat them in a playoff series – with their latest and greatest title success. on the line.
You may think that Tatum and Brown are end products, given how often we have seen them in this scene. Brown is one of eight players in NBA history to have played more than 75 playoff games before turning 26, and only Coby Bryant had more playoff points than Tout’s 1,508 at his age. (The late Los Angeles Lakers legend needed 10 more games and 124 more attempts to get there.) They climb in a rare atmosphere.
No one disputes whether the Celtics should leave one of them anymore. Instead, we wonder how long they could play together and what they could achieve before they finished. Brown has signed until 2024 and Tatum could enter free agent in 2025, but they are confident they can win a title this year and that could be enough to convince them to link their careers in Boston to the top. their positions.
First of all. Another victory against Miami and the three-time Golden State Warriors champions are probably waiting for the Finals. Months after Jason and Jalen promised to “figure it out,” the NBA is theirs.
As Tatum tried to explain to everyone on JJ Redick’s podcast “Old Man and the Three” in February, “I could not imagine why you would not want to have two of the best under-25 players on your team.”
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Ben Rohrbach is a personal writer for Yahoo Sports. Do you have a tip? Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter! Follow @brohrbach