Boston Celtics

Tatum responds to Kidd saying Jaylen Brown is Celtics' best player

"People try to drive a wedge in between us."

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After just 48 minutes of basketball in the 2024 NBA Finals, the mind games have begun.

Asked Saturday about the challenge of dealing with Boston Celtics star Jaylen Brown, Dallas Mavericks head coach Jason Kidd declared Brown the Celtics' "best player."

"Well, Jaylen is their best player," Kidd said. "He did everything (in Game 1) and that’s what your best player does. He plays both sides, he plays defense and offense at a high rate. He was the Eastern Conference Finals MVP, and it seems like he’s picked up where he left off.”

Brown indeed was excellent in Game 1, scoring a team-high 22 points while becoming the first Celtics player to record at least 20 points, three blocks and three steals in a Finals game. But most would label fellow All-Star Jayson Tatum -- who made First-Team All-NBA for the third consecutive season while Brown failed to make an All-NBA squad -- as the Celtics' best player.

So, this seemed like some gamesmanship from Kidd to incite more debate about whether Tatum or Brown brings more value to Boston, especially after Tatum's relatively quiet Game 1 (16 points on 6 of 16 shooting).

But Tatum and the Celtics aren't taking the bait.

"No reaction," Tatum replied Saturday when asked what he thought of Kidd calling Brown the C's best player. "This is a team sport. We wouldn’t be here if we didn’t have JB on our team.

"... We understand that people try to drive a wedge in between us. It's a smart thing to try to do, or try to do. We've been in this position for years, saying one of us should be traded or saying that one is better than the other, so it's not our first time at the rodeo."

Veteran big man Al Horford had a more straightforward reaction.

"Jason Kidd, man, I see what he's doing," Horford said, via CLNS Media's Noa Dalzell. "... That man is sneaky."

Tatum and Brown have been to five Eastern Conference Finals and two NBA Finals during their seven seasons together, and they've clearly benefited from that experience. They've gone through the ups and downs of playoff successes and failures and have seen all sorts of media narratives, including a bizarre recent debate on ESPN's Get Up! about whether Tatum was happy enough that Brown won East Finals MVP.

It doesn't appear Tatum and the Celtics are at all bothered by Kidd's comments, and that the team remains focused on trying to secure a 2-0 series lead in Game 2, which tips off Sunday at 8 p.m. ET at TD Garden. NBC Sports Boston's coverage will begin at 6:30 p.m. ET with Celtics Pregame Live.

Joe Mazzulla is not happy about the the way people discuss the competitive relationship between Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown
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