In spite of being one of the most iconic rivalries ever in Boston sports history, Magic Johnson doesn’t let his time playing for the Los Angeles Lakers cloud his judgment when it comes to assessing players on the Boston Celtics.
Not too long after the Celtics beat the Brooklyn Nets to take a 3-0 lead in their first-round series, Johnson praised several of Boston’s players for their efforts, calling Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown “two superstars.”
What is particularly noteworthy is knowing that Johnson was one of the Lakers’ executives during the 2017 NBA draft, where LA took Lonzo Ball with the second overall pick over Tatum.
Hindsight is 20/20, but at times like these, it can’t hurt to wonder where both franchises would be right now if the Lakers had taken Tatum instead. Needless to say, it goes without saying that the Celtics are more than grateful that their longtime rival passed on Tatum.
Magic Also Praised Boston’s Team Efforts to Beat Brooklyn
Magic attributed Boston’s Game 3 victory to their team identity outweighing the identity of Brooklyn’s two stars Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. “Tonight, the Celtics team greatness won over Brooklyn’s individual greatness,” he wrote.
This serves as a reminder of the two biggest factors coming into this series. In spite of the Celtics playing their best team basketball as the regular season was winding down, hardly anyone believed this was going to be an easy series for them primarily because of what Durant and Irving bring as a duo to the basketball court.
In spite of the Celtics being ahead 3-0 in this series, getting there has been anything but easy for them. They’ve only scored 14 more points total than the Nets have all series long. In one game they blew a double-digit lead while having to come back from a double-digit deficit in another.
The Nets have thrown some good punches at the Celtics, but, as Magic pointed out, Boston’s greatness as a team has put Brooklyn away despite the Nets having two of the most talented scorers in the league playing side by side.
Stan Van Gundy Responded to Magic’s Tweet About Greatness
As valuable as it is to have “team greatness,” teams can’t win as much as they do without having particular players stand out. In Boston’s case, that starts with Tatum and Brown. They may not have the reputations of players like Durant and Irving — yet — but even at their young ages, they’ve shown as individual players that they have the talent to go toe-to-toe with anyone.
Former NBA coach Stan Van Gundy did not reference Tatum and Brown directly when he responded to Magic’s tweet about Boston’s team greatness, but he said the Celtics couldn’t have gone as far as they have without having individually great players to lead them there, writing, “Celtics have both individual greatness and team greatness.”
This highlights one of the differences between Boston and Brooklyn. When the playoff seedings were forming, it seemed some teams were purposely avoiding the Nets, maybe because of the individual greatness of Durant and Irving. As scary as those two are, there was a reason why they ended up having to fight for the seventh seed.
The Celtics, by contrast, have the individual greatness of Tatum and Brown, which combined with the rest of the team’s contributions to bring Boston into this postseason as the second seed. Because Boston has both team and individual greatness as Van Gundy pointed out, and Brooklyn only has the latter, Boston is currently one game away from ending the Nets’ season.