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Fire and Ice: Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum

     On the hallowed parquet floor at the arena in Boston, two young Celtics are taking the necessary steps towards basketball greatness. For years, the two have lived in the shadows of supposed saviors and veterans; patiently waiting for their time to shine.  This season, the dynamic duo has been unleashed. Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum aka Fire & Ice are wreaking havoc upon the NBA. To Celtics nation, this isn’t a surprise. These two have always been more than the young, valuable “assets” the rest of the NBA views them to be. To us, they’re superheroes…

A Duo is Born!

     The origin of Fire & Ice began after a seemingly ordinary win over the Denver Nuggets in December of last year.  Jaylen Brown was quoted postgame as saying “We’ve got different games … It’s like fire and ice.” From that point forward, the name has stuck. It seems to fit these two in that their games mirror and complement each other so well. This particular dynamic duo is less in the mold of Batman and Robin and more in the style of Spider-Man and Deadpool in the way they each command their own space. However, who is who?  Fire is representative of Jaylen Brown and Ice is Jayson Tatum. Now…let’s look at them as individuals to see why.

Flame On“:The Jaylen Brown Story

  • Drafted 3rd overall by the Boston Celtics in the 2016 draft out of the University of California, Berkeley
  • Currently averaging 26.3ppg, 6.2rpg, 3.5apg on 53/42/76 shooting splits.
  • Definition: Fire, noun
    • burning passion; liveliness of imagination

     When Jaylen Brown has the ball, you can almost see the fire emanating from his body.  He moves with a pace of will that leaves defenders smoldering in his wake. He leaps toward the basket with reckless abandon before somehow gaining control and slamming it on anyone from Giannis Antetoukmpo (3 times) to Lebron James. Even his handle seems slightly unhinged and aflame before he brings it all together with a series of moves. Defensively, Jaylen brings a burning passion to every possession. As a student of Marcus “The Cobra” Smart (a superhero in his own right), Jaylen Brown meshes his intensity with a determination that’s hard to prevail against. In general, he’s an inferno on the court and the only way to douse his fire is to take the ball out of his hands.  Even then, he still might get loose with his explosive cuts towards the basket.

Each year, Jaylen has increased his effect on the floor for the Celtics. Going from a promising young player to a critical piece towards the Celtics success. His ability to guard anyone on the floor be it a big man, point guard or wing is invaluable to Boston. His burgeoning offensive game is only getting better and his ability to facilitate off the ball is one of the keys to his success. He consistently beats his man off the dribble and either finish or find shooters on the perimeter. His fire often sets the pace for the Celtics and when he’s aggressive, Boston is tough to beat.

The Iceman Cometh“: Enter, Jayson Tatum

  • Drafted 3rd overall by the Boston Celtics in the 2017 draft out of Duke University
  • Currently averaging 26.9ppg, 7.1rpg, 3.8apg on 47/43/88 shooting splits.
  • Definition: Ice, noun
    • a state of coldness (as from formality or reserve); with every likelihood of being won or accomplished

     Jayson Tatum walks onto the court with the cool and calm demeanor of a gunslinger.  He carries himself as a stone-cold killer who cannot be stopped. Tatum either receives the ball in a spot where he’s comfortable and simply rises up over his defender. Or he calmly relocates to a spot more favorable to him and lets it fly. Late in games though, the ice in his veins is most apparent. He’s already hit two game-winners (vs. Milwaukee and Detroit) in 10 games this season and he’s primed to get more opportunities. On the court, Tatum is unflappable. Defenders stream towards him from all angles but he’s able to assess the situation with incredible speed.  He’s logged a 12 assist game this season while facing double teams (with zero turnovers) and he’s also dropped 40 because a team decided to face guard him. You cannot break the ice. 

Since entering the league, Tatum has been a natural-born bucket. He’s increased his scoring average from 13.9 to 15.7 to 23.4 to 26.3 this season. If the Celtics are going to contend in the Eastern Conference for the next half-decade, it will be off the back of Tatum’s scoring. The more consistent Tatum is throughout a game, the better the Celtics play. It’s no coincidence that on nights when his shot is off, Boston can’t seem to get their offense in gear. As the cooler and iceman of this squad, a lot of late-game responsibility is put on his wide shoulders.

Binary Stars

     So now we come to the pivotal moment of their saga.  The moment the two heroes join forces to take over the world (aka the NBA). So far, Tatum and Brown have been one of the most efficient and prolific duos in the league.  Amid rumors of trades, these two have managed to remain focused on getting better every year and every game.  Both players have increased their scoring average and both have added wrinkles to their overall games. It’s even more impressive this year with the additional opportunity the two have been afforded.  With Kemba Walker out to start the year, Brown and Tatum have been front and center.  That means more shots, more possessions but also more attention from opposing defenses. They’ve thrived.

     As a fan, this is the best-case scenario for the future we’ve been promised since 2016. Over the years, both players have been in trade rumors for guys like Jimmy Butler, Paul George, Kawhi Leonard and most recently, James Harden. Danny Ainge heard all the mutterings and groans yet he’s continued to stand pat.  Danny (acting in the role of a master sage) was right. This duo absolutely needed time to grow and develop together.  Splitting them up could have been catastrophic to both their careers.  They move around and off each other so well that it’s almost scary to think how that chemistry will develop within the next 4 to 5 years.  While fan bases can be impatient (especially us Celtics fans), we have to “trust the process” Danny Ainge has exhibited in keeping Fire & Ice together. 

How high can they fly?

     So the question remains, are they good enough to win the Celtics a championship? This season is a small sample size but the improvement we are seeing from these first few games is huge. It’s proven that these two can be the best players on your team and that you can compete at the highest level.  They beat Milwaukee opening night but got trounced by Brooklyn. They’ve seemed to settle in though getting a big win in Miami, over Toronto and Indiana.  There will be games where one of the duo may go off and the other will fall flat or we’ll have games where they both dominate. However, the real question is how will Kemba Walker fit his game to fit the Fire & Ice mold? It’s Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum’s team and Kemba will have to make it work within that system.  

     The Celtics have Jaylen and Jayson locked up until at least 2024. They don’t need to “win-now” but they are certainly capable of it. In the past, Ainge swung for the fences with Kyrie, Hayward and Horford yet the Celtics fell flat. However, Ainge has been holding his two aces in his back pocket.  Two elite wing players in today’s NBA is an advantage. Now, it’s simply a matter of fitting the right pieces around them.  There is a lot of basketball left to be played in 2021. For now though, Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum aka Fire & Ice are the primary pieces the Celtics have been searching for and they are the duo that’s going to get them to banner 18.


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