Celtics

Paul Pierce thinks the Celtics should focus on building around Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, not separating the two

Pierce also believes the Celtics have the talent to be a contender, but they have to find consistency.

Paul Pierce thinks Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown shouldn't be separated. AP Photo/Michael Dwyer

The Celtics have performed a bit under expectations to start the 2021-22 season. Boston is 8-8 through 16 games, ranking 16th in the league in offense while their star player Jayson Tatum has managed his way through a shooting slump.

However, the tide has changed a bit over the last couple of weeks. The Celtics are 6-3 in their last nine games, including a 22-point win over the Lakers on Friday night.

Celtics legend Paul Pierce believes that the issues surrounding the Celtics to start the season (plus the ones they faced last year) are more about finding consistency than talent.

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“They lost a veteran point guard in Kemba Walker, I think that was a huge loss,” Pierce said on Sports Illustrated’s “The Crossover NBA Show with Chris Mannix and Howard Beck.” “I think if he had another year to get seasoned with them, they would have been better.

“But, you’ve got to understand they dealt with COVID issues. They dealt with injuries. And also they have a new coach, a young coach. He’s never been a head coach in the league, implementing a new system, new players, new personalities, and trying to make it work.

“It’s not about the talent. I think they have the talent to compete in the Eastern Conference. But that’s a combination of those things that I mentioned that has them struggling early. They don’t have a consistency in the lineup. Jaylen Brown’s been out here and there – Al Horford in-and-out. So, it’s hard to develop some consistency when you don’t have your main core pieces there on a consistent night-in, night-out basis.”

Boston has found some consistency on the defensive end over its last nine games. The Celtics’ defensive rating is the third-best in the league over that stretch (100.5), and they’ve used their defense to get by as they’re ranked 16th in offensive rating (107.5) over that span.

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As Pierce mentioned, the Celtics have been without Brown recently. He’s missed the Celtics’ last seven games and will miss an eighth straight game on Saturday due to a hamstring injury. Getting Brown back in the lineup would certainly provide some consistency for the Celtics as he’s averaging 25.6 points per game on the young season. Brown’s return would also move Dennis Schroder – who’s averaging 19.1 points per game in November – to the bench, giving the second unit a much-need offensive spark.

But with Boston playing .500 ball since the start of the 2020-21 season, some basketball pundits have questioned if Brown and Tatum are a good fit for each other. Pierce, who had a similar situation with Antoine Walker in his early NBA days, doesn’t believe the problem is if Brown and Tatum can play together. Rather, he’s more concerned about the surrounding the two young stars.

“I never believed that (it’s right to separate to star players),” Pierce said. “I truly believe it’s about putting the right pieces around your great players. They’ve proven they can be All-Stars in this league. In order to win in this league you have to have star talent around the perimeter. That’s what the Celtics have and that’s something you need to build around it.

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“My theory proves right because when you look at all the top players and all the Finals MVPs year in and year out, who are you looking at? Top-tier perimeter guys like Kawhi Leonard, the Kobe Bryants, the Kevin Durants, the LeBron James’s, these are the guys that lead their teams to championships. You need those type of players. The Celtics have to find a way to build around those guys so they can reach that next level.”

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