Celtics forward Jayson Tatum recently said that there have been times over the course of a season when he and members of the team’s front office and medical staff earmark games for him to rest. Then the game arrives, and Tatum tends to push back.
“The front office gets, not mad, but they definitely wish I would rest a little more and sit some games out,” Tatum said. “There’s been times where two weeks in advance we talk about, ‘Let’s take this game off.’ And I’ll be like ‘All right.’ Then the day comes and I’ll be like, ‘[Expletive] that.’ I think that’s just something that’s the kid in me. I always dreamed about playing in the NBA and never want to take that for granted. I just love playing basketball. There’s days they make me not work out. Sometimes, I get mad when [coach] Joe Mazzulla takes me out of the game. I just always want to play.”
But Tatum is dealing with some mild soreness related to a recent ankle sprain, and on Sunday night he missed his first game of this season, against the Wizards. Forward Grant Williams started in his place and had 5 points and 7 rebounds.
“I think more of a precaution,” Mazzulla said. “We all saw the ankle sprain. He did what he had to do, and with the way we’re playing and getting back to fully healthy, I think [we’re] just being precautious and making sure he’s solid.”
Tatum is averaging 36.9 minutes per game, fourth most in the NBA entering Sunday. And he has played two more games than two players in front of him: Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell and Mavericks guard Luka Doncic.
The Celtics face the Hornets at TD Garden on Monday, and when asked whether Tatum would miss that game as well, Mazzulla was noncommittal.
“We’ll collaborate together and [do] what we think is important for him and our team, short term and long term,” Mazzulla said.
The Wizards were shorthanded, too. Third-leading scorer Kyle Kuzma (back) and fourth-leading scorer Rui Hachimura (ankle) were sidelined.
Extended run for Luke Kornet
In the first quarter, Celtics center Luke Kornet converted a putback over Wizards big man Kristaps Porzingis, stretching his streak of consecutive field goals made to 16. The run came to an end later in the quarter, when Kornet, who finished with 12 points, missed a 3-pointer from the right corner.
Prior to that, Kornet had not missed a shot since Boston’s Nov. 11 win over the Nuggets. Kornet, who entered Sunday averaging 3.9 points and 3.6 rebounds in 12.7 minutes per game, said he’s been pleased with the overall play of Boston’s bench units, especially when joined by Tatum.
“I feel like we just have a lot of guys who are out there just trying to make the right play,” Kornet said. “Jayson’s obviously a smart player and really skilled, so whether it’s to score or pass or whatever situation it is, whether it’s Sam [Hauser] or Grant [Williams] or Payton [Pritchard] or [Derrick] White or whoever it is, I just think we have a good feel for each other and we’re working to get shots, whatever the right one is, J.T. does a great job setting everything up with that and everyone else does a good job of staying occupied and making something happen.”
Gordon Hayward out of action
Former Celtics forward Gordon Hayward, who is averaging 16.3 points and 4.3 rebounds for the Hornets, will miss Monday’s game at TD Garden because he’s sidelined indefinitely with a fractured shoulder.