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Birthday boy Jayson Tatum, 22, celebrated as conference’s player of month

Jayson Tatum’s February included his first appearance in the All-Star Game. Nam Huh/Associated press/Associated Press

Celtics forward Jayson Tatum has been named the Eastern Conference player of the month for February. It’s the first time the third-year forward has earned a player of the month honor, and he is the first player other than Bucks superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo to win the Eastern Conference’s award this season.

He will have to wait for his first March game as he missed Tuesday’s 129-120 OT loss to the Nets because of an illness.

In February, Tatum averaged 30.7 points, 7.9 rebounds, and 3.2 assists while making 49.4 percent of his field goals and 48.1 percent of his 3-pointers .

The Celtics outscored opponents by 9.3 points per 100 possessions with Tatum on the floor.


Tatum, who turned 22 on Tuesday, also appeared in his first career All-Star game last month. He is the first Celtics player to win a player of the month award since Isaiah Thomas did in January 2017.

“I don’t know that we put limits on him,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens said of Tatum. “Sometimes you do have to take a step back and say what he’s accomplished at this age is pretty remarkable. I don’t think he’s satisfied with that.

“The improvement’s been good. Every step of the way, he’s improved from what’s happened last. It’s a good sign. I’m encouraged by him.”

Walker back at it

Celtics point guard Kemba Walker returned after missing five games to manage soreness in his left knee. Walker scored 21 points and played 23 minutes, which was about what was expected.

Guard Marcus Smart said he did not anticipate any issues as the Celtics reintegrate Walker into their system,

“The thing about Kemba is he’s so good without the ball, just as good as he is with the ball,” Smart said. “So he knows when to pick his spots and how to get his rhythm back. So he’s not a guy we really have to worry about coming in and trying to see how we can [implement], because he does such a great job of doing it and just going with the flow of the game.”


Smart, who missed practice because of an illness Monday, was cleared to play against Brooklyn and replaced Tatum in the starting lineup.

Smart had 14 points and a game-high 10 assists before fouling out in the fourth quarter.

Safe approach

Smart said he has minimized his interactions with fans due to lingering concerns about the coronavirus.

“I actually kind of stopped [slapping fans high-five] before they even suggested it,” he said. “I don’t sign as many autographs either because of it. It’s tough, because you want to interact with your fans, but unfortunately the safety risks that are involved with not just us, but the fans as well, you want to limit it. The fans, hopefully they’ll understand it’s not malicious. It’s nothing toward them. It’s just to keep everybody safe.”

The Celtics on Monday had a doctor speak to the team about the virus and measures they can take to limit potential exposure.

Love connection

Tennis legend John McEnroe attended Tuesday’s game to promote the 2020 Laver Cup that will be played at TD Garden from Sept. 25-27. McEnroe and Celtics forward Gordon Hayward, who was a standout high school tennis player, did a jersey swap prior to the game.

Adam Himmelsbach can be reached at adam.himmelsbach Follow him on Twitter @adamhimmelsbach.