With their backs against the wall on Friday night, the Boston Celtics delivered, earning a 108-95 win over the Milwaukee Bucks in Game 6. The series will not travel back to Boston for Game 7. While players like Jaylen Brown, Derrick White, and Marcus Smart stepped up, Jayson Tatum shined brightest.
The superstar ended the game with 46 points to go along with nine rebounds and four assists. He shot it efficiently, too, going 17-for-32 from the field and 7-for-15 from beyond the three-point line. His top-notch performance even drew the eyes of one of the NBA’s top stars.
After the game, Damian Lillard of the Portland Trail Blazers tweeted about Tatum, praising his high-level play.
Tatum and Lillard are friends, having played together during the 2021 Tokyo Olympics. In fact, reports surfaced last June that Tatum’s conversation with Lillard was one of the main reasons he decided to join the team.
Lillard Recruited Tatum to Team USA
According to Brian Windhorst of ESPN, Lillard reached out to Tatum before the Olympics last summer in an attempt to get him on the squad. At the time, Tatum was in the process of figuring out his offseason plans, as the Celtics had just wrapped up a disappointing season.
“Lillard was also in communication with Boston Celtics wing Jayson Tatum, who put off his decision on Team USA for some time after the season ended to evaluate his offseason priorities,” Windhorst wrote. “Tatum was on the 2019 World Cup team that finished a disappointing seventh, in part because Tatum sprained his ankle in pool play.”
Windhorst also noted that “when it was clear how the team was shaping up, Tatum’s uncertainty faded and he committed, sources said.” He said that Lillard and Brooklyn Nets star Kevin Durant were the main catalysts in the recruiting process.
Team USA went on to win a gold medal at the Olympics, but that wasn’t the last time Tatum and Lillard found themselves connected. With the Trail Blazers’ uncertain future, Lillard’s name has been thrown around in trade rumors, and the Celtics have popped up as a potential destination.
Celtics Dubbed Potential Lillard Trade Destination
Despite his unwavering loyalty to the city of Portland, Lillard has stated that he wouldn’t push back if the Trail Blazers decided to trade him. Portland has committed to building around him, as emphasized by the hiring of Joe Cronin, but all of that could change in an instant.
As reported by Adam Tayor, one executive who spoke with Heavy.com noted that Brad Stevens is a big fan of Lillard. Not only that, but the executive also noted that he doesn’t think Portland could do much better than what Boston has to offer.
“I don’t know that Portland could do better than what Boston could offer if it comes down to that,” the executive noted. “I mean, Lillard is 31 now, and with the injuries, he is not going to get the superstar package he might have drawn in the past. If you can get a couple of guys like Smart and White and some picks, you might have to do that if you are Portland.”
Lillard has praised Tatum’s game before, and with his most recent stamp of approval, it’s clear that he still appreciates the young star’s greatness. And considering it’s also been reported that he’d enjoy playing with Jaylen Brown, the ‘Lillard to the Celtics’ rumors probably won’t be stopping anytime soon.