On Friday night, the Boston Celtics had their backs to the wall in Game 6 in a 108-95 win over the Milwaukee Bucks. The series will not return to Boston for Game 7. While players like Jaylen Brown, Derrick White, and Marcus Smart made appearances, Jayson Tatum shone the brightest.
The superstar finished the game with 46 points, plus nine rebounds and four assists. He also shot it efficiently, going 17-to-32 from the field and 7-to-15 from beyond the three-point line. His superb performance even caught the eye of one of the NBA’s top stars.
After the game, Portland Trail Blazers’ Damian Lillard tweeted about Tatumpraised his playing at a high level.
Tatum and Lillard are friends after playing together at the Tokyo 2021 Olympics. In fact, reports surfaced last June that Tatum’s conversation with Lillard was one of the main reasons behind his decision to join the team.
According to ESPN’s Brian Windhorst, Lillard approached Tatum about adding him to the squad ahead of last summer’s Olympics. At the time, Tatum was in the process of finalizing his plans for the offseason as the Celtics had just wrapped up a disappointing season.
“Lillard has also been in touch with Boston Celtics winger Jayson Tatum, who delayed his decision to join Team USA for some time after the end of the season to assess his off-season priorities,” Windhorst wrote. “Tatum was part of the 2019 World Cup team that finished a disappointing seventh place, in part because Tatum sprained his ankle playing pool.”
Windhorst also noted, “Once it was clear how the team was shaping up, Tatum’s uncertainty vanished and he signed on, sources said.” He said that Lillard and Brooklyn Nets star Kevin Durant were the key catalysts in the recruiting process.
Team USA won a gold medal at the Olympics, but that wasn’t the last time Tatum and Lillard felt connected. With the Trail Blazers’ uncertain future, Lillard’s name was being tossed around in trade rumors, and the Celtics emerged as a potential target.
Despite his unwavering loyalty to the city of Portland, Lillard has stated that he would not push back if the Trail Blazers decided to trade him. Portland is committed to building around it, as Joe Cronin’s hire points out, but all of that could change in an instant.
As reported by Adam Tayor, an executive speaking to Heavy.com noted that Brad Stevens is a huge Lillard fan. Not only that, but the general manager noted that in his opinion, Portland couldn’t do much better than what Boston has to offer.
“I don’t know if Portland could do better than Boston when it comes down to it,” the manager noted. “I mean, Lillard is 31 now and with the injuries he’s not going to get the superstar package that he may have pulled in the past. If you can get a few dudes like Smart and White and a few picks, you might have to if you’re Portland.
Lillard has praised Tatum’s game before and with his recent seal of approval it’s clear he still appreciates the young star’s greatness. And considering he’s also been reported to be keen to play with Jaylen Brown, the Lillard to the Celtics rumors are unlikely to stop anytime soon.