Wednesday, October 11 – Celtics at Hornets
Pregame: Brown, Tatum Remain in Starting Lineup
CHARLOTTE – Unlike Doc Rivers during his tenure in Boston, Brad Stevens isn’t shying away from giving his youngest players critical roles on the Celtics.
Even on a presumed title-contending team.
For the second time in three games – the third of which Kyrie Irving, Gordon Hayward and Al Horford did not participate – Stevens will start Irving, Jaylen Brown, Hayward, Jayson Tatum and Horford.
Brown, 20, and Tatum, 19, have combined to be on this Earth for only eight more years than Horford has by himself.
But Stevens has confidence in the young wings, each of whom were drafted with the third overall pick of their respective draft classes. Brown started 20 games as a rookie last season, and asked point-blank tonight if he is comfortable starting Tatum, Stevens replied, “Yeah, sure.”
Yeah, sure, as in, “I’m doing it again tonight.”
Brown and Tatum have earned respect and trust from Stevens at a young age for multiple reasons. First and foremost, they are loaded with talent, ability and versatility. Maybe even more important, however, are their mental capacity and their commitment when it comes to the game of basketball.
“They’ve spent a lot of time, and I think that not only what they know, but how they work to know more (is impressive),” Stevens said. “They watch a lot of film, they get a lot of extra time on the court, they do a lot of individual work.”
In regard to the aforementioned versatility, Brown and Tatum complement Hayward very well when they are all on the court together. That’s because all three of those players possess length, athleticism, shooting ability, and defensive ability. They can – and will – seamlessly switch positions with each other in mid-action.
“They’re all interchangeable,” Stevens said of the trio. “They’re all gonna do the same stuff as far as defensively – Jayson, Gordon and Jaylen – for the most part. And then offensively, [Jayson has] got to know basically all of our different wing positions.”
With all of that being said, Stevens isn’t etching this lineup in as his Opening Night starting five. He left plenty of room to maneuver as he sees fit prior to tip-off Tuesday night in Cleveland and well beyond.
“I like the flexibility of changing things around,” he said after noting that Marcus Smart and Marcus Morris could see as much playing time as anyone else on the roster on any given night. “You tend to do it in the Playoffs. I’ve never done it much throughout the regular season unless injury dictated that, but I think that we have a team that we may try some of that stuff with.”
For now, though, Brown and Tatum are in the starting lineup, because Stevens believes they are capable of holding up their end of the bargain alongside three All-Stars.
– Marc D’Amico