The Boston Celtics are on the verge of completing what should be considered the greatest mid-season turnaround in NBA history. Midway through January, the Celtics were below .500, and now they are about to compete in the NBA Championship against the Golden State Warriors.
With Ime Udoka’s elite defensive scheme and a great crop of talent, Boston has emerged out of the Eastern Conference after an intense battle with the Miami Heat. Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart, and the entire Celtics roster will now get to compete in their first NBA Finals.
However, it wasn’t an easy road for Boston. In fact, it was a road full of doubters and critics. After their Game 7 win in Miami, Brown caught up with Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports and discussed the negative dialogue that surrounded the team all year.
“That trade talk was loud, and most of it came from Boston fans,” Brown revealed to Haynes. “It’s a city that doesn’t tolerate excuses. But in reality, early in the season we had a new coach, we had a new front office, I missed about 15 games early in the season and that caused us to not be clicking on all cylinders like we wanted to be. People were impatient, so I understand. But fast forward, we got healthy, we got everybody back and now the sky’s the limit.”
Brown and Tatum clearly heard the talk, as they shared a moment after the game reflecting on the notion that they “couldn’t play together.”
Tatum and Brown Joke About Haters
After their Game 7 win over the Heat, Tatum and Brown shared a moment at the awards table. The star duo hugged, with Tatum yelling to Brown, “they said we couldn’t play together.” This was the common narrative while the Celtics were struggling.
As the Celtics slugged their way to a sub-.500 record in the first half of the season, a lot of people were suggesting that the Celtics break up the duo. One person, in particular, who made this suggestion, was Celtics champion and ESPN media personality Kendrick Perkins, who made the claim on the January 7 edition of NBA Today.
“This is the last thing I’m going to say, it’s time to break Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown up. It’s time to break them up,” Perkins said. “If you go back and you watch all the Celtics games, either Jayson Tatum is having a good game and Jaylen Brown is struggling or Jaylen Brown is having a good game and Jayson Tatum is struggling. Their body language says they don’t like playing with each other.”
Well, Perkins ended up being wrong, and if he had listened to what Tatum and Brown were saying all season, then maybe he wouldn’t have made his prediction in the first place.
Tatum and Brown Were Always Confident
Throughout all of the team’s struggles, both Tatum and Brown remained confident in their ability to play with one another. Time and time again, they reiterated their beliefs, telling the media that they would make it work.
Brown talked about it at the beginning of January, just days after Perkins’ declaration.
“I think we can play together. We have played together well for the majority of our career and things like that. The last year or so hasn’t gone as expected, but I think a lot of the adversity that we’re kind of going through now is going to help us grow and get better in the future,” Brown said on January 8.
Tatum had talked about it previously as well, but backed up the idea further on the February 18 edition of The Old Man & The Three podcast with JJ Redick and Tommy Alter.
“We’ve had plenty of talks. We ask each other, ‘do you want to be here?’ And we both were like, ‘yeah,’” Tatum revealed. “He was like, ‘bro, I don’t understand.’… If you really think about it, we’ve had way more success together than this year and what we didn’t accomplish last year.”
And now, just a few months later, they backed up their talk with actions. The Celtics are in the NBA Finals, and Tatum and Brown got them there together.
Game 1 of the NBA Finals will be on Thursday, June 2 at 9:00 p.m. Eastern time.