How the Boston Celtics’ willingness to make sacrifices is pushing them closer to a title
The Boston Celtics are fixing to run away with the Eastern Conference this season and currently own the best record in the NBA at 29-8.
While they have two of the best young players in the league, with one of them the highest-paid star in NBA history, sacrifice seems to be the theme of their season, with their bigger players allowing rotation players to thrive.
Al Horford is coming off the bench while Jrue Holiday is averaging the fewest shots since his rookie season 14 years ago. It’s thought to be the reason they’ve lost under double figures at this point of the campaign and have gone 18-0 at the TD Garden to set a franchise record for consecutive home wins.
Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown have become one of the best duos in basketball and have always been all about winning. While they have never been selfish players, there is now a palpable maturity that’s allowed them to foster an impressive culture.
Tatum turns 26 in March while Brown is 27, meaning that both stars are in their primes. They’re also surrounded by a roster considered to be the best in the league, with Holiday, Horford, Derrick White, and Kristaps Porzingis also contributing.
Brown has reached the Eastern Conference Finals five times in his seven years as a pro while and has done so four times with Tatum. They’ve also made it to the NBA Finals together and came within two games of a championship in 2022.
Undoubtedly one of the team’s leaders, Tatum called a meeting with Brown and the other members of their “top six,” allowing each player to share their feelings on the season and the sacrifice required to go all the way.
It’s reported that everyone left the meeting committed to putting the team ahead of their personal goals and agendas.
Such a move by Tatum was just what the Celtics wanted as they must have been worried about leadership after trading Marcus Smart, who was their longest-tenured player and the team’s heartbeat. They wanted to see Tatum and Brown take up bigger roles off the court and the young stars have stepped up.
With nearly half the season gone, their place in the standings suggests that Boston’s new leaders are doing excellent work. They’re currently the favorites to win the championship in 2024 with odds of +310. While the playoffs are still months away, fans are already placing wagers on postseason futures, as well as title picks. And with North Carolina sportsbooks to join in at some point this year, many more fans will have opportunities to get their punts in.
Tatum, who’s headed to his fifth All-Star game knows that his window for winning a championship is tightening and it’s the only goal he has right now, having earned lots of personal honors, as well as an Eastern Conference championship.
"We've had so much team success and had our fair (share) of individual success and accolades, and the only thing left is to win a championship," he said recently. "And (I've) been in a lot of games, been in a lot of playoff games, and I understand the value that I bring, and it's not always about scoring.
"I know the effect I have on the court, and guys may not help or may be paying too much attention to me, or if I screen, I bring two defenders with me, and my teammates get open, and as you get older, you just realize that kind of opens everything else up for myself and for everybody else.
"So, just finding little different areas throughout the game, especially in the offensive end where I can screen for somebody to get open and they score, it won't show up on the stat sheet, but I know that that's impactful for our team."
That Tatum and Brown have willingly allowed their teammates to be at the forefront of what they're doing has sped up their chemistry and they’re playing like a well-oiled machine with one goal in sight.
"That is what success looks like,” head coach Joe Mazzulla said of Tatum. “He doesn't come into a game thinking he's going to affect it one way. He's reading the game and saying, tonight calls for this, tonight calls for that, and just looking at it from that perspective. That's value, that's leadership."