Jayson Tatum-Jaylen Brown Celtics Takes Have Been Bizarre

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The Celtics are as straightforward of a team as you’ll find, but it seems like detractors are trying to find something hidden that doesn’t exist.

Boston cruised its way through the Eastern Conference playoffs to make the NBA Finals for the second time in three seasons. Joe Mazzulla’s side dominated its way through nearly every opponent in its path, but that hasn’t been enough for detractors.

There certainly is fair analysis to be pessimistic about the Celtics’ chances to win the NBA title. Jimmy Butler, Donovan Mitchell and Tyrese Haliburton’s injuries made Boston’s path easier. And a matchup against Luke Doncic and Kyrie Irving or Anthony Edwards and Karl-Anthony Towns presents different challenges.

And yes, Boston can’t control who it faces, but everyone likes the idea of a team going through adversity before it wins the big one. Therein lies the issue with the discourse around the C’s. They don’t fall into those easy narratives.

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The cliche around the “Bad Boys” Detroit Pistons was they paved their way through Michael Jordan and the Celtics to win back-to-back titles. LeBron James “paid his dues” so to speak before he achieved his greatness. Stephen Curry then beat James to win his championships.

Boston lost to the Golden State Warriors, but that doesn’t seem to be enough. Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal hated each other during their dynastic run, so Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown should too, right?

That seemed to be the path Mike Greenberg wanted to go on ESPN’s “Get Up” on Tuesday when he tried to assert Tatum was not happy Brown won Eastern Conference finals MVP. Producers even put a spotlight on a smiling Tatum to try to back up Greenberg’s point.

What are we doing here? Are we so starved for content that we need to make up narratives? It might also be that pundits and casual observers aren’t ready to rip off the James-Curry bandaid off just yet. They aren’t ready to embrace the next generation of stars and still have nostalgia goggles for stars that make them comfortable.

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Tatum simply is not the prototypical superstar. He’s low-key like Nikola Jokic, but the Denver Nuggets star is a behemoth of a human being so his greatness is easier to comprehend. Tatum’s physical tools are more subtle, like his own dominance. He’s never going to be the “(expletive) you” superstar. He’ll do it by action by hitting a three in your face or dunking on you.

Brown fits the mold that people want in a superstar, but he also has a lot of respect for Tatum and his teammates. Fans are used to superstar teammates being petty and jealous of each other’s accolades, but Brown and Tatum aren’t that kind of teammates.

Before Brown signed his supermax extension, it made sense to speculate about breaking up the pair. But president of basketball operations Brad Stevens saw the championship potential and built a team that best fits their strengths.

That all won’t be enough until the Celtics win the title. Even then, the discourse might not change. The team might be in conversations around “weakest NBA champions of all time” because pundits are unable to have a conversation without bringing up legacy or where a current thing ranks throughout history.

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Tatum and Brown can go through the entire NBA Finals media cycle talking about how they’re good friends and how much they love each other, but it might fall on deaf ears for those who are trying to fit this Celtics team into a mythical mold of yesteryear.

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