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Bernie Bits: Our Town’s Jayson Tatum Is Off to a Positive Start With the Celtics

Two games into his NBA career with the Boston Celtics, Our Town’s Jayson Tatum is getting plenty of playing time, averaging 36 minutes per game, and spending most of the time at small forward. He’s also already done something pretty cool..

In his first NBA game, at Cleveland on Tuesday night, Tatum scored 14 points and had 10 rebounds to become the first Celtics’ rookie to post a double-double in his first game since Larry Bird in 1979. Tatum will be an even more important figure in the Celtics’ rotation after the team lost Gordon Hayward for the season after he went down with a horrific leg injury on opening night.

Former Celtics great Paul Pierce had this to say about Tatum during an appearance on CSN New England:  “He looks like an older version of me, when I started doing the step-back and stuff… When I’m watching him, he looks like a mature version of my game, like sixth, seventh, eighth year. He sees the defense. He knows what’s going to happen before it happens. He understands his position, footwork, his step-back (jumper) is there. His offensive repertoire seems complete. The sky is the limit for that kid.”

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I think the 5-1 Philadelphia Eagles are the real deal, but they don’t rate super-team status … and that’s because no current NFL team looks like an indomitable force that will relentless march through the schedule and into the Super Bowl. But in an NFL that’s loaded with so many teams who look alike and play alike and are bunched up with similar records, the Eagles stand out for a number of reasons, headed by the superb play of second-year quarterback Carson Wentz, a burgeoning rushing attack, and an ability to win on the road. The Eagles have played four of their first six on the road this season, but beginning with Monday’s game against NFC East rival Washington Redskins, the Iggles will have their next three (and four of the next five) games in Philadelphia.

In a related note, Wentz and the Eagles opened the season in Washington and took down quarterback Kirk Cousins and the Redskins. And what if Washington loses to Philadelphia for the second time this season? Hey, I think Cousins is good, but if he insists on being paid like Big Money Man, then Big Money Men don’t go 0-2 against a less experienced quarterback. A Big Money Man leads the Redskins to a win on Monday night, and gets his team back into the hunt in the NFC East. Wentz has guided the Eagles to a touchdown or field goal on 45 percent of the offensive possessions this season, one of the best efficiency rates in the NFL. Cousins and the Redskins have gotten points on 38 percent of their offensive possessions.

Barry Odom (Mizzou) and Lovie Smith (Illinois) were hired at the same time. They’re both in their second seasons as head coach of their programs. They have the same overall record (5-13). They are both 2-10 in their respective conferences, the SEC (Mizzou) and Big Ten (Illinois.) Odom has one of the worst defenses in the FBS, and doesn’t seem to know how to fix it — even though defense is supposed to be his area of expertise. And for Smith, his Illini just lost by 11 points — at HOME — to Rutgers, a weak Big Ten program that came in with a 16-game conference losing streak and a conferenced record of 5-23 since joining the league in 2014.  Will both coaches survive in their jobs and get a chance at a third season?

In reviewing all of the hot-seat coaches at the FBS level, Andy Staples of SI.com put Odom and Smith in a special category: “It’s Early, but Yikes.”  We’ll share Staples’ comments with you…

Staples on Lovie Smith: “Hiring a fired NFL head coach always was a 50-50 proposition. Either the coach would embrace the challenge, recruit hard and use an Xs-and-Os acumen honed at the highest level to upset teams with more talent, or the coach would realize how difficult this job is and decide to simply draw a paycheck and put an uninspiring team on the field each week. Judging by the results, Smith has chosen the latter. He is 5–13 since taking over the Illini last year. Saturday, Illinois played Big Ten East doormat Rutgers in a game that might have been the only chance at a conference win for either program. Rutgers won, 35–24.”

Staples on Barry Odom: “After getting crushed by Auburn on Sept. 23, Odom ranted about a turnaround that has yet to materialize. Missouri kept it close in a loss at Kentucky, but so had Eastern Michigan a week earlier. The Tigers put up a fight for a quarter and a half at Georgia on Saturday before getting blown off the field. Missouri should beat Idaho on Saturday. After that, the Tigers will continue seeking their first SEC win.”

Tough times on the gridiron in Champaign-Urbana and CoMo,

Thanks for reading …

–Bernie

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