SALT LAKE CITY — Much has been made of Celtics forward Jayson Tatum’s admiration of Kobe Bryant. And while Tatum tried to mimic Bryant’s game and relished the time he spent with him, he also always kept an eye on Carmelo Anthony.
“Melo was one of my top three favorite players,” Tatum said after scoring 39 points against Anthony’s Blazers on Tuesday. “I studied him so much growing up. One of his biggest fans.”
So it was a treat for Tatum to exchange jerseys with the likely future Hall of Famer after Tuesday’s game. Anthony and Tatum are both Jordan Brand representatives, and they spent some time together during a company retreat to France last summer.
“I love him,” Anthony said of Tatum. “He’s a guy that’s establishing himself as we’re all witnessing, we’re all watching. I love his game, I love watching him play. I was able to have some one-on-one time with him, get a chance to know him better as a person first, but his game speaks for itself, and he continues to blossom.”
Anthony, 35, said he relishes the opportunity to be an ambassador and mentor for rising stars like the 21-year-old Tatum.
“For guys to acknowledge that and see that and watch that, and want to learn from that,” Anthony said, “for me, that’s what it’s all about, when you can kind of pass that knowledge down to the younger generation.”
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Tatum entered Wednesday averaging 36 points on 57.1 percent shooting over his last four games. The stretch included his career-high 41-point effort against the Lakers on Sunday and his 39-point game Tuesday in which he drilled a career-high eight 3-pointers.
Tatum’s offensive onslaught is generating plenty of attention around the league.
“Honestly, I think he’s let the game slow down a lot for him,” Jazz point guard Mike Conley said. “Obviously he was already one of the better scorers, better shooters at that position. But, after watching him play, just seeing him play with such poise, just really taking his time getting to his spots where he knows he can be effective makes all the difference. He’s not rushing anything.”
Added Rudy Gobert, the reigning defensive player of the year: “I mean, he can pretty much score from anywhere. He can get to the rim. He’s pretty long. Pretty athletic. Pretty crafty. He’s got all the moves. He can hit threes, the mid-range and the last few games he’s been playing the best basketball of his career.”
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Celtics point guard Kemba Walker on Wednesday missed his fourth consecutive game because of left knee soreness. Coach Brad Stevens has previously said that the team’s medical staff is focused on strengthening the knee so the pain does not become a long-term issue. The Celtics’ next game is against the Rockets on Saturday.
There is a chance that center Robert Williams could be activated for that game. Williams has been sidelined since Dec. 6 because of a hip bone edema but has been taking part in full workouts during this four-game road trip.
“The workouts have been good, man,” Williams said. “They’ve been solid. No restrictions. Dunking whenever I want. Just doing whatever I feel like is necessary for my return. I was honestly kind of nervous about losing a little bounce, because that’s my game. But everything’s been going great.”