NEW YORK — For the second consecutive year, Celtics forward Jayson Tatum will start the NBA All-Star Game despite not being voted in. Tatum, who was chosen as a reserve last Thursday, will once again replace Nets forward Kevin Durant, who is out indefinitely because of a knee sprain.
Tatum received the nod because he finished fourth in the voting for frontcourt starters behind Durant, 76ers center Joel Embiid, and Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo.
Tatum acknowledged recently that it will be a challenge to supplant any of those three players over the next few years, but he added that it is a goal. But he did not want to diminish being chosen as a reserve for the Feb. 20 game in Cleveland, either.
“It’s an incredible feeling, something that you don’t want to take for granted,” he said. “So, thankful, and I’m happy to be going back.”
Tatum will be placed in the pool of starters for Thursday’s All-Star draft in which team captains Durant and LeBron James will select their squads.
Celtics forward Jaylen Brown, meanwhile, was passed over as a roster replacement for Durant Monday when NBA commissioner Adam Silver chose Hornets point guard LaMelo Ball for the final Eastern Conference reserve slot.
After scoring 26 points in the win over the Magic Sunday night Brown, an All-Star last season, seemed to sense that he would not be picked.
“It is what it is,” he said. “At the same time, congrats to those guys that made it.
“I think that sometimes a lot of that stuff is situational, but at the same time, I didn’t lose sleep over it. I’m blessed, extremely, so I’m happy to be able to use my platform to be here. I just control what I can control at the end of the day. No complaints, no lost sleep for me.”
Brown is averaging 23.9 points, 6.5 rebounds, and 3 assists, but he missed 14 games with a hamstring injury. And the Celtics’ struggles as a team made it unlikely that they would get two All-Stars, although they have been rejuvenated by their current five-game winning streak.
Nets are hurting
Durant’s injury is most relevant for the Celtics because it means he will not play when the teams face each other Tuesday night. Brooklyn, which has lost eight games in a row to slip into a virtual tie with the Celtics in sixth place in the East, has been ravaged by injuries and COVID-related absences.
Point guard Kyrie Irving will miss Tuesday’s game because he is still allowed to play only in road games because of New York’s vaccine mandate. Also, shooting guard Joe Harris remains out indefinitely with an ankle injury, and All-Star guard James Harden, who missed Sunday’s game against the Nuggets, is questionable because of a sore hamstring.
Celtics coach Ime Udoka stressed his team cannot get caught up in roster gazing, however.
“They’re obviously struggling, but they have so many weapons, even with the guys that are out,” he said. “It’s a faceless opponent. Continue to do what we’re doing, hold ourselves to that standard, regardless of who we’re playing.”
It’s unclear whether the Celtics’ recent surge will affect president of basketball operations Brad Stevens’s approach to Thursday’s trade deadline. But backup point guard Dennis Schröder remains the most likely candidate to be dealt.
Schröder, who is averaging 14.4 points, 4.3 assists, and 3.3 rebounds, is on an expiring $5.9 million contract that will make him especially appealing to teams hunting a championship this year. Furthermore, the Celtics hold Schröder’s Non-Bird Rights, which means they wouldn’t be able to offer him more than $7.2 million a year this summer, and he figures to command more on the open market.
Schröder said the chatter is nothing new.
“I’ve been hearing this for eight years now — or nine years, sorry,” Schröder said. “So whenever it happens, it happens. I mean, it’s probably a good sign that a lot of people [might be interested], because of my contract.
“It’s a business. But I like the guys, the organization. I love them. So, end of the day, when I go somewhere else, that’s how the business goes. But I love the guys here and if I’m staying here, of course that would be better.”