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Boston’s Jayson Tatum getting a taste of stardom, NBA grind at Summer League

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LAS VEGAS — The idea is to just give them a taste.

With high draft picks heading into Summer League, the idea is just to give them a small sampling of what is to come at the next level, then see how they react. Summer League has given Tatum a taste of NBA stardom — he was wearing a custom T-shirt after the game Sunday with his likeness on it (from a previous haircut, but still it looked good).

Summer League also has given Jayson Tatum a taste of how grinding the NBA travel schedule can be.

Tatum played in his fifth game in seven days Sunday night in Las Vegas. The Celtics played three in Utah before coming to Nevada for another two back-to-back Saturday and Sunday. Tatum has been a standout through those games — and he had the crowd oohing and ahhing with his fade-away jumper in the first half Sunday — but he was 0-of-3 in the second half and his legs were just not under him.

“Today was a little tougher, back-to-back, I was tired, body was aching, but I think (the Celtics) had a more well-rounded game….” Tatum said. “There’s going to be days like this, back-to-back, you’re feeling like this, but the team won so that’s all that matters.”

It’s not all that matters to the team, which is why there is a sense around Las Vegas that the Celtics may shut him down for the rest of Summer League. They know what they got now, he got his taste, no reason to risk injury for these games.

Tatum entered the 2017 NBA Draft considered the most NBA ready of the players, and it’s easy to see why — his confidence and smooth moves make him look like an NBA veteran. He is a very fluid athlete with handles who can score in isolation beautifully, and his left hand is better than expected.

His go-to move is a fadeaway that is NBA ready — he’s hit a few tough ones Sunday, including one with Caleb Swanigan in his face.

“He makes tough shots, something that’s hard to do at the next level,” teammate Jaylen Brown said. “Playing in the NBA is going to be hard, but he’s a shot-maker and that makes it easy for everybody when he’s scoring the ball.”

Boston has played Tatum and Brown a lot together, something that could happen in the NBA season as well. They both said they feel their on-court chemistry is improving.

“They’re strong, they both play similar but they both are big time creators that have special gifts,” said Celtics Summer League Coach Walter McCarty. “They run the floor, they shoot the long ball, and they can play defense.

“If they just continue to work and they want it, they can be as good as they want to get. They both love being in the gym and shooting, they just have to keep developing. They do that and they’ll be just fine.”

Tatum going to get buckets at the NBA level — even the shots he misses everyone just assumes will go in. Still, guys who make tough shots can struggle to adjust. On Sunday, Portland was adapting and closing out hard when he was going to fade-away. He tried to show a counter move, but his legs just failed him.

He needs to finish better going to the rim, and his decision making will have to adjust to the better level of athlete — he was stripped on a drive going 1-on-4, then was pulled aside by a Celtic coach after. He picked up an offensive charge on another dive to the rim. Because he likes to isolate he can be a little slow making decisions, which come the regular season means defenses can set.

Still, there is a lot to like in Tatum — he can step in next year and give the Celtics quality minutes, and some buckets.

For now, he’s just getting a taste.

“Just getting acclimated,” Tatum said. “Be with the team, the coaches, and just get comfortable… It’s a process. I’m getting more comfortable each and every day, it takes time.”

Ty Lawson dropped by team, reportedly banned from Chinese league after social media posts

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Ty Lawson’s off the court challenges were among the reasons he was playing in China and not the NBA this season. He signed for good money in China instead.

That era of his career after some social media posts, apparently of him at a strip club in China, has him dropped by his team and rumored to be banned from the league.

Lawson’s team, the Fujian Sturgeons, apparently gave this statement to Chinese news agency Xinhua:

“His inappropriate words are inconsistent with the social responsibilities and values abided by our club and have brought serious adverse social impacts to the club and the league. We will not sign him for the new season.”

Emiliano Carchia, the CEO of Sportando, reports that Lawson is out of the Chinese Basketball Association for good.

Lawson’s quickness and ability to create space and score could help some NBA teams, but incidents like this make it less likely an NBA team would roll the dice on the 32-year-old point guard. Lawson spent eight seasons in the NBA then the last two in China.

Mike Brown reportedly on list of Indiana coach interviews

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The buzz for a while has been the Indiana coaching job is Mike D’Antoni’s to lose — the Pacers want to update their offense, and no one is more qualified to do it.

But other names are circulating and people being interviewed: Dave Joerger, the Spurs’ Becky Hammon, Miami’s Dan Craig, Dallas’ Stephen Silas, Milwaukee’s Darvin Ham, Minnesota’s David Vanterpool, Philadelphia’s Ime Udoka, Brooklyn’s Jacque Vaughn, Portland’s Nate Tibbetts, and don’t forget Chauncey Billups.

Now add veteran coach Mike Brown to the list, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

Brown was the head coach of both the Cavaliers and Lakers, leading the Cavaliers to the Finals in 2007 and being named Coach of the Year two years later. Brown has been the lead assistant under Steve Kerr for a few years now and has undoubtedly soaked up knowledge on setting up a modern NBA offense.

Whoever fills Nate McMillan’s shoes in Indiana has a tough job. Expectations may be high from ownership, but McMillan’s Pacers’ teams played hard and defended, making them difficult to play against. Their offense also was old school, which is why McMillan was fired after the Heat swept the Pacers in the first round, but it wasn’t terrible. How big a leap this team makes may rely less on the style of play and more on if Victor Oladipo has returned to his All-NBA form.

Don’t write of Boston off yet despite 0-2 deficit to Miami

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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. (AP) — If there was a sliver of consolation for the Boston Celtics on Friday, it probably could have been found within the understanding that a 2-0 lead for the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference finals doesn’t guarantee anything.

The Celtics learned that two years ago against Cleveland.

And Milwaukee learned the same last season against Toronto.

Dropping the first two games of the East finals to the Heat, obviously, isn’t the ideal scenario for the Celtics. But they’ve had chances to win both games – and might be getting Gordon Hayward back Saturday night for Game 3, when they’ll have the opportunity to get right back into this series.

“I think this series is far from over,” Celtics forward Jaylen Brown said.

Those aren’t fighting words. The Heat agree with him.

“We haven’t done anything. We haven’t,” All-NBA pick and Heat forward Jimmy Butler said. “We can’t get excited that we’re up 2-0 because as good as it is to be 2-0, it could easily be 4-2 Boston. So, we’re going to come into the same way knowing that we’ve got to be better and stay humble about it.”

The Celtics were up by 14 in the fourth quarter of Game 1, then were up by 17 in the first half of Game 2 and lost both games. Seeing a 17-point first-half lead get erased in the NBA is no big deal anymore; the wasted lead that truly bothered Boston was the five-point edge they had with 4:25 remaining. They got outscored 17-7 the rest of the way, and tempers flared in the Boston locker room after the game.

“We feel like we could have won,” Brown said. “Should have won, and we didn’t. So just a lot of emotions flying around. That’s it.”

The Heat got some great breaks in Game 2, plays like Kelly Olynyk banking in a 3-pointer late in the third quarter to help finish off a 37-17 Miami run – and Butler getting a steal and then whipping the ball behind his back as he saved it from going out of bounds in the fourth, a play where not only did the Heat maintain possession of his heave but where he wound up getting a layup.

But the comeback had important tactical elements as well, such as Miami going to zone defense and stifling the Celtics with that scheme. If Boston gets Hayward – who hasn’t played in a month because of a bad ankle – back on Saturday, his shooting and passing ability will help when Miami tries the zone. Hayward was listed as questionable for Game 3 on the injury report that Boston submitted Friday to the league.

“This isn’t about zones or defenses and offenses and stuff like that,” Boston coach Brad Stevens said. “This is, we just got to be better.”

Boston led Cleveland 2-0 in the 2018 East finals before losing in seven games; Milwaukee led Toronto 2-0 in the 2019 East finals before losing in six games. Momentum can change just that quickly in a series, and the Heat know that to be the case.

“You get to this level, in the conference finals, it’s not going to be easy for either team – and it wasn’t,” said Heat coach Erik Spoelstra, who got his 81st postseason win Thursday to tie K.C. Jones for eighth on the all-time list. “Both teams are laying it all on the line. That’s the way it should be.”

Some of what else to know going into Saturday:

THE DRAGON

Goran Dragic, Miami’s 34-year-old point guard, has led the Heat in scoring in each of the first two games, 29 points in Game 1 and 25 in Game 2. “He’s a winner, man. That’s my guy,” Butler said. The only other player this season, age 34 or older, to have multiple 25-point games against Boston was Toronto’s Kyle Lowry – in the East semifinals.

FROM 3

Brown and Marcus Smart are a combined 13 for 27 from 3-point range in the two games for Boston; Celtics teammates Kemba Walker and Jayson Tatum are a combined 9 for 34. Tatum knows he has to be more aggressive, after not taking any shots in the final 4:56 of Game 2. “Not looking at we got to win four out of five … just win the next one,” Tatum said.

CELTICS DEFENSE

Even after giving up 223 points in the first two games of the East finals, Boston still leads these NBA playoffs in points allowed per game (101.8; Miami is second at 104.4), opponent field-goal percentage (.413) and opponent 3-point percentage (.317). But after a 6-0 start to the postseason, the Celtics are only 2-5 since. That matches Boston’s worst seven-game stretch from any point this season.

Watch Rajon Rondo hit ridiculous behind-the-backboard floater

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Everything was going right for the Lakers Friday night. They made it look too easy.

On their way to a 1-0 series lead, some may have tuned out before the shot of the game — a Rajon Rondo floater from the baseline, over the backboard and in.

Incredible. You can end a HORSE game with that shot.

Rondo had seven points on 3-of-7 shooting but also dished out nine assists. Maybe not vintage playoff Rondo, but he fit in with a Lakers team that dominated the Nuggets in Game 1.

Game 2 is Sunday evening.