INDIANAPOLIS — Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown have each said publicly in recent days they want to remain together a in Boston to help the Celtics win a championship. Tatum, the two-time All-Star and leading scorer, addressed the issue and a tweet from former Celtic Kendrick Perkins.
Following the Celtics’ 99-75 win over the Knicks in which Brown had his first triple double, Perkins complimented Brown but then criticized Tatum for his 6-for-14 shooting and 19-point effort. Tatum shot back shortly after the game, suggesting that Perkins didn’t need to admonish Tatum while praising Brown.
“I guess it was nothing more than that; I don’t have no problem with Perk, we don’t have no beef toward each other,” Tatum said. “We don’t really know each other. I seen what he did and he said my name and I just responded and that’s all it was. It’s no big deal, just something to move past.
“That’s what social media is for sometimes. You see something and you get the ability to respond. We both said what we said and move on.”
Tatum is not very active on Twitter, so the fact that he commented on Perkins’s tweet made headlines.
“Obviously, we live in a world where we are on our phones and on TV and we see all the things about we can’t play together and everybody in the media saying one of us got to go,” Tatum said. “We just had a talk about we both want to be here. The grass ain’t always greener. This year hasn’t been what we expected but I think in the long term it will be good for us. We gotta figure some things out.”
In the opening minutes Monday, Tatum dribbled toward the paint and fired a hard skip pass toward Brown at the opposite 3-point line. It was the type of playmaking coach Ime Udoka wanted to see; only the baseball pass clunked an unaware Robert Williams on the side of the head and then ricocheted high in the air and out of bounds.
Tatum apologized profusely.
“I didn’t even laugh,” Tatum said. “I genuinely felt bad. I tried to hit JB and Rob rolled at the same time and it had some heat on it. I apologized twice because he knew I didn’t do it on purpose but if somebody hit me in the head with the ball, I’d be mad. We moved past it. We’re good now.”
Said Williams: “I really was trying to find the ball once it hit me in the head. JT apologized. He felt sorry about it.”
When asked if his deadlocks cushioned the blow, Williams said: “Yeah for sure, I probably would have been knocked out if it wasn’t for the dreds.”
Guard Marcus Smart, who left the Indiana win with a bruised right thigh, was not able to recover quickly and did not play Wednesday. Smart did not return after he was injured in the third quarter. It’s the latest in a series of ailments for Smart. He missed two games with a right hand laceration sustained in the Christmas Day game against the Milwaukee Bucks and missed the Oct. 30 game at Washington.
The good for the Celtics is guard Payton Pritchard returned from COVID-19 protocol and was available for Wednesday. He missed the past four games but could soak up Smart’s minutes at point guard.
After his sparkling play in the past two weeks, the Pacers signed guard Lance Stephenson to a second 10-day contract. Stephenson hit some big shots down the stretch Monday against the Celtics and is averaging 14.2 points and five assists in five games with the Pacers. Stephenson was part of the Indiana teams that reached the Eastern Conference Finals in 2013 and 2014 before becoming a journeyman and then being out of the league for two years. He signed a 10-day hardship exemption contract with the Atlanta Hawks last month and then returned to Indiana on a 10-day deal.
“He’s earned it, certainly,” Indiana coach Rick Carlisle said. “He’s injected some personality and life into our situation that’s been really great. I’m happy for him. He’s worked hard, gone through a lot.”
Meanwhile, Indiana center Myles Turner was not pleased with playing just nine seconds of the fourth quarter and overtime Monday and went to social media to express his displeasure. Turner, the league leader in blocked shots, had three against the Celtics and altered several others but Carlisle decided on a one-big-man lineup down the stretch.
Turner has been the subject of trade rumors for more than two years, including a deal that would have sent him to the Celtics for Gordon Hayward.
“He knows what we need from him and what we expect from him,” Carlisle said. “There are situations where rotations are going to go a certain way some nights. The game we played in Utah (in November), he was probably going to be the lone big to finish that game before he was ejected. Sometimes it goes that way, it’s part of the game. Myles is a guy that’s demonstrated a high level of professionalism throughout his career.”
Help for Pacers
The Pacers were considerably healthier for the rematch with guards Caris LeVert, Malcolm Brogdon and center Gogo Bitadze all available. LeVert and Bitadze are coming off COVID-19 protocol while Brodgon had not played since Dec. 21 because of an Achilles injury.