Celtics forward Jayson Tatum reflects on long but productive rookie season

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Celtics forward Jayson Tatum reflects on long but productive rookie season

Post by bobheckler on Wed Jun 06, 2018 2:09 pm


Celtics forward Jayson Tatum reflects on long but productive rookie season

Mark Murphy Wednesday, June 06, 2018

Credit: Matt Stone
Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum

One of Jayson Tatum’s first trips after the hangover from a 101-game rookie season was to return to Duke for its annual alumni camp.

He joked during a town hall-style show hosted by Mike Krzyzewski that he left too soon.

“I wish I could have come back for the second year, it was so much fun,” said the Celtics forward, the rookie tag officially behind him.

Krzyzewski looked out at the audience with a knowing smile and said, “Not as much as I wish. It’s nice to know we wish the same thing.”

The Duke coach especially wanted to know about Tatum’s training — how he progressed from a 19-year-old in his first NBA training camp to someone capable of withstanding an 82-game season.

That was the breadth of Tatum’s leap. He was the only Celtic to not miss a game — regular season and playoffs included.

“Did it stay the same?” Krzyzewski asked of the end-to-end grind.

Tatum, having fun, said, much to the audience’s delight, “We don’t practice as hard in Boston as we did here. Practices are a lot shorter because (Brad Stevens) understands we have so many games.”

Krzyzewski countered that training camp must have been a real eye opener, and Tatum shook his head.

“Not as hard as here, though,” he said.

Somewhat remarkably, Tatum’s first NBA season was exactly that — not as hard as some would have predicted for a skinny rookie with a lot of skill and footwork, but not a lot of muscle.

But the Celtics and Tatum are on the same page about this much — he has the kind of long frame that can add natural strength and bulk.

And a stronger, bigger Tatum is going to be a problem against anyone with the ball in his hands.

Pure circumstance — the loss of Gordon Hayward for the entire season — also gave Tatum a jump on where he would have started with a healthy Hayward in the lineup.

“I think coming into the year, Jayson was probably projected to be a 20-25 minute-per-game guy off the bench, not put too much stress on a young kid’s shoulders that early, let him come along slower,” Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge said. “So he obviously exceeded those expectations with the opportunity with Gordon’s injury. I think that he’s just scratching the surface. He’s got to get a lot better, both ends of the court. What I like about Jayson is he knows that. He will work to get better. We’re excited about his future.”

Of the many areas, though, where Tatum appears to be ahead of NBA schedule is in his ability to score off contact — much like the Celtics legend he’s most often compared to, Paul Pierce.

Tatum often seemed at his best drawing contact on his way to the basket, and that’s an area where added strength is going to enhance his ability as a scorer. He already seems to have the issues of pace and game speed down.

Though Tatum’s performance took a midseason dip — possibly the result of a sprained pinkie on his shooting hand — he finished strong, leading the team in scoring during the playoffs.

“It was a long year. The first game, that just seemed like so long ago. I never played this many games before so this is all new to me,” Tatum said. “I guess it kind of went by fast, but it’s been a long year.

“I learned that I definitely belong in this league. A lot of things I did well this season and there are so many things that I can do better,” he added. “Now I have a better sense of what to expect for next year.”

And this time, Tatum knows, he’ll be even more physically ready for the grind.

“It’s a long season so you just have to adjust to how people are playing you and how the game goes,” he said of getting stronger. “All good players have to do that, to learn how to get better throughout the season.

“Just really work on my body. Just try to stay healthy and be stronger. Just try to get bigger.”



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