By Alex Barth, 985TheSportsHub.com
Celtics fans were hoping to get two players into the NBA All-Star game as reserves. They were ready to riot if they didn’t get any. In the end the NBA split the difference for them, naming Jayson Tatum one of seven All-Star reserves in an announcement Thursday night. Meanwhile, Jaylen Brown found out he won’t be making the trip to Chicago in two weeks.
For Tatum, the news represents a dream come true.
“I have been watching the All-Star game ever since I started watching basketball. I would always get Kobe’s all-star jersey,” Tatum told reporters, tying together what has been an emotional week for the former 3rd overall pick. Tatum had a close relationship with Bryant, who was honored before the game Thursday night.
“I always had aspirations that one day I will be in the All-Star Game,” Tatum continued. “At 21 years old, to make it a reality, I can’t put it into words. It is a special feeling.”
Tatum had a hunch that he was going to get the good news, but didn’t know for sure until he arrived to Celtics shootaround Thursday afternoon.
“I had a good feeling, but I found out once I got on the court for pregame shooting. Deuce [Tatum’s son] came to the back with a ‘My dad’s an All-Star’ shirt, so it was icing on the cake.”
Meanwhile Jaylen Brown isn’t taking the snub personally.
“I’m not disappointed. I think there are a lot of guys that you have to choose from. A lot of guys having a good year. It is what it is.”
Although he doesn’t feel slighted by not being selected, Brown says that won’t stop him from using it as mental fuel for the remainder of the season.
“I try and use anything and look for anything and everything as motivation,” said Brown, who has his eyes set on a bigger prize.
“Just start gearing up your mind, getting ready for the playoffs…that is the stage you want to be on.”
For Celtics head coach Brad Stevens, the nominations (or lack thereof) don’t change anything in his eyes.
“Whether you’re named an All-Star or not, it doesn’t really matter to us,” Stevens responded when asked about Tatum earning the slot. “[Tatum] and Jaylen have both played like All-Stars and both have been such huge parts of our team, not only this year but for the last few years.
Stevens then pivoted specifically to Brown, mentioning he saw the motivation in Thursday night’s performance.
“[Not getting selected] adds another motivating factor. I’m happy for Jayson, and I thought that Jaylen handled it great. Not being named, he came out of the gates playing great. So I thought the response of both guys was really good.”
Now that the selection process is complete, Tatum, Brown, and the Celtics will have to put the aura of the All-Star game aside for a few weeks. The team plays every other day between now and the beginning of the break on April 14, amounting to seven games in 14 days. With opponents like the Sixers, Magic, Rockets, and Clippers ahead, Boston will need all of its key players, All-Stars and non-All-Stars alike, playing at an elite level.
That stretch starts on Saturday when the 31-18 Philadelphia 76ers come to town. The Celtics have not beaten Philly in three tries this year, and Saturday’s game represents their final shot at them in the regular season. Tip-off is scheduled for 8:30 p.m. at TD Garden. Sean Grande and Cedric Maxwell will be on the call on 105.7 WROR, with pregame coverage starting at 8 p.m.
Alex Barth is a writer and digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Thoughts? Comments? Questions? Hate mail? Let him hear it on Twitter @RealAlexBarth or via email at Alexander.Barth@bbgi.com