The Boston Celtics have lost three games in a row. They sit at 12th place in the Eastern Conference and have allowed a league-high 122 points per game over their last four contests. Yet, the team’s skidding efforts have managed to be mostly overshadowed by Marcus Smart’s public critique of teammates Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum.
With problems seemingly mounting, Celtics president of basketball operations Brad Stevens spoke with NBC Sports Boston’s Michael Holley, where he was quick to downplay the perceived rift between Smart and the team’s two All-Stars.
“I think the most important thing about last night’s message and what he said was that he talked to those guys about it,” Stevens said at the ABCD Hoop Dreams charity event. “And I saw that today. It’s funny, when you’re in it and when you see guys at the facility — when you see him and Jayson sitting down eating breakfast together today and talking about how to come to find a solution for our team — those guys want to win. At the end of the day, that’s the most important thing.”
Smart refused to pull any punches following the team’s fourth-quarter meltdown against the Chicago Bulls, pointing the finger directly at Tatum and Brown, claiming “they don’t want to pass the ball.”
“You have to be measured when you talk publicly, but the most important thing is, you’ve got to put your name on it,” Stevens noted of Smart’s comments. “And you’ve got to make sure you have those direct, difficult conversations.”
Doubts of Brown & Tatum’s Ability to Play Together
In the grand scheme of things, the concerns of Tatum and Brown’s preference for iso ball late in games pale in comparison to the brewing doubts of whether the two franchise cornerstones can actually play quality, winning basketball alongside one another.
“The NBA is one of the great gossip leagues of all time,” NBA reporter Jackie MacMullan said told NBC Sports Boston. “GMs, agents, writers, everybody, we all love to gossip. And that is what everybody is gossiping about right now: Can these two guys play together?”
Brown has been the subject of trade speculation for the better part of the past year and a half. However, the Celtics have remained bullish on their preference to keep Brown in Beantown — and understandably so. The 25-year-old wing is coming off a career campaign in 2020-21 and is currently averaging new personal bests in points (26.7), shooting percentage (49.6%) and rebounds (6.5) through his first six games of this season. However, if he and Tatum continue to struggle to play together, trade talks could once again begin to heat up. Should that be the case, the Celtics wouldn’t be short of potential suitors for Brown’s services.
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Stevens Not Panicking
With a new broader view of things from his seat in the front office, Stevens isn’t ready to hit the panic button a mere seven games into the season — even if things are looking awfully rocky on the surface.
“Last year we were 8-3 to start the year,” Stevens said. “And it didn’t feel like 8-3 from my perspective. From the seat I was in I felt like we had a lot of things that we were going to have to really account for and we were going to have to be a lot better. And then we got hit with other stuff. And so, right now at 2-5, I feel a lot better from a structural standpoint.”
Still, while Stevens may be a fan of the team he’s pieced together, at some point they must gel together on the hardwood. When asked by Holley if the team’s current group can actually play together, Stevens claimed “We’re gonna find out.”