The Celtics are atop the NBA heading into their Friday matchup against the Pelicans, and one New Orleans star had nothing but praise for his upcoming opponent.
Boston is the top team in offensive rating thanks to its league-leading 3-point shooting and its dynamic duo in Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. This season is their sixth year playing together, but the Celtics stars have faced numerous doubts about their ability to sustain success on the same team.
They’ve broken those doubts with a run to the NBA Finals last season and their stellar play to start this season. Pelicans star CJ McCollum praised Tatum and Brown and explained what is it about them that has helped the Celtics get off to a 12-3 start.
“I think they’ve figured out how to coexist together,” McCollum told “CJ McCollum Show” co-host Israel Gutierrez on Thursday, per ESPN video. “They’re not fighting each other for shots. They’re making the extra passes to each other, and they’re celebrating one another’s success. And that’s the sign of a team that you can build together. Obviously, a lot of people said, ‘They got to split up. JB needs his own team. They can’t play together. They’re two big wings. They’re both ball-dominant,’ whatever the case may be. They’ve figured out how to both remain themselves while empowering each other, and that’s very hard to do.
“Usually, someone has to take a step back. I think Jaylen Brown’s alpha mentality is helpful because he’s still aggressive. He still can find his shots. He’s able to find how to impact the game, even when Jayson Tatum has the role. Tatum’s averaging 30, and Jaylen Brown starts the game 9-for-9 but doesn’t force himself into the game. He’s still taking the shots that are there, as opposed to trying to get up to 25 shots, and I think that’s the difference in the maturity level but also in what they’re trying to accomplish. They got that close to winning a championship, so they realize if we can just tinker some things, start off a little bit better, not be under .500 at the halfway mark, then they give themselves a better chance of getting back to the finals.”
McCollum is familiar with conversations about whether two similar stars can play with one another from his days in Portland. The Trail Blazers had McCollum and Damian Lillard in the same backcourt for eight and a half seasons. Portland had its moments in the playoffs, but the Blazers never made the NBA Finals with the All-Star duo. McCollum was traded to the Pelicans last season ending the partnership with Lillard.
New Orleans is off to a modest start at 9-6, and it will have its hands full at Smoothie King Center on Friday handling Boston’s offense.
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