Celtics

Paul Pierce on Jayson Tatum: 'He looks like an older version of me'

Paul Pierce on Jayson Tatum: 'He looks like an older version of me'

WALTHAM, Mass. – From the time the Boston Celtics drafted Jayson Tatum with the third overall pick in last June’s NBA draft, the comparisons to Paul Pierce’s game offensively have been steady.
 
For Pierce, he doesn’t see Tatum being as good as he was scoring the ball when the 10-time All-Star came into league in 1998.
 
He’s better.
 
“He looks like an older version of me, when I started doing the step-back and stuff,” Pierce said in an exclusive interview with CSN. “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.”

LISTEN TO THE CELTICS TALK PODCAST WITH PAUL PIERCE


 
But having spent nearly two decades in the NBA, Pierce has seen his share of young talented players come and go, many with similar if not more potential in terms of talent as Tatum.
 
“The thing I see, what makes the guy special, there’s a lot of talent in the league. There’s no question about it,” Pierce said. “Your mentality, your drive, how great you want to be, that’s what separates the good from the great ones. You look at guys from the past, like Kobe (Bryant’s) determination, his competitive spirit. You see guys that were just as talented, they didn’t have the same competitive spirit so they could not reach the levels of other greats.
 
Pierce added, “that’s the biggest thing, the mentality, having a competitive spirit because there’s so much talent, and it’s about how hard you work and the mentality you bring every single night.”
 
And while it’s still early, Pierce sees some of those traits in Tatum.
 
The praise for Tatum certainly sounds good to Celtics fans, it also comes with added pressure which as Pierce knows all too well, is a given for any player who suits up for the Green Team.
 
As Pierce strolled on to the practice floor, he admits that even after all these years “it brings chills every time, just stepping out (on the floor), grabbing the ball, reminiscing about the practice days, looking up at the banners.”
 
Ah yes, those banners.
 
Boston has 17 of them, more than any other NBA franchise.
 
But there’s one banner on the wall that remains blank, something that serves as a reminder for Pierce of what could have – no, should have – been at least another title during his 15 seasons as a Celtic which ended when the Celtics traded him to Brooklyn for a king’s ransom of draft picks, among them being the picked used to ultimately have Boston wind up with Tatum.
 
“’I left one (banner) behind,’” Pierce tells Tatum and then adds, “’You gotta fill that one up for me.’’’

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

Celtics may get big surprise tonight when they host Nuggets

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Celtics may get big surprise tonight when they host Nuggets

BOSTON -- If the Celtics' preparation for tonight's game against Denver focused on the Nuggets' last handful of games, they might be in for a big surprise tonight.
 
Nikola Jokic, the Nuggets' 6-foot-10 big man, suffered a left ankle injury on Nov. 30 against Chicago, and has not played in the six games since then. But coach Mike Malone has indicated that there's a chance that he may be on the floor tonight.

In addition to averaging 15.5 points per game, the third-year big man leads the team in rebounds (10.6) and assists (4.6) per game.
 
"He's getting closer," Malone told reporters in Detroit on Tuesday. "He's moving better. I think he's managing the pain."
 
As far as whether Jokic will play tonight?

"We'll wait and see," Malone said.
 
Here are five under-the-radar storylines heading into tonight's game between Boston and Denver. 
 
DENVER DEFENSE? 
When it comes to scoring, the Nuggets can hold their own with the best of them. But defense? Definitely not their forte. Denver comes into tonight's game giving up 106.8 points per game, which ranks 20th in scoring defense. Boston hasn't exactly lit up the scoreboard this season (103.2 points per game, ranking 21st in the NBA), but you gotta believe being at home against a team that has struggled all season defensively will be just what the Celtics need to have a solid night offensively.  
 
SECOND-CHANCE POINTS
The Celtics' improved rebounding has been critical to their ability to not only keep teams off the glass, but also limit opponents second-chance points. Boston allows a league-low 10.1 second-chance points but will be put to the ultimate test against Denver. The Nuggets come into tonight's matchup averaging a league-best 15.6 second-chance points per game. 
 
BENCH SCORING
Second-unit play will be critical tonight, especially considering how, according to hoopsstats.com, the Celtics are eighth in the NBA in fewest points allowed off the bench (32.6) while Denver ranks seventh in bench scoring (39.8).
 
CORNER 3
Boston is going to have to pick up its defense when it comes to the corner 3-ball, which has been a Nuggets' strength all season. According to nba.com/stats, Denver is shooting 45.0 percent on corner 3's this season, which ranks fourth in the NBA. And the Celtics, while having the league's top-ranked defense, have not defended the corner 3 so well. They come into tonight's game allowing opponents to shoot 43.4 percent on corner 3's, which ranks 24th in the league. 

CLUTCH PLAY
If tonight's game involves clutch plays needing to be made down the stretch, you have to give the edge to Boston. The Celtics have had 19 games this season that fall under "clutch" parameters (ahead or behind by five points or less in the last five minutes of play) while the Nuggets have had eight. In those 19 games, Boston has a 14-5 record and its .737 winning percentage is fourth-highest win the NBA. The Nuggets aren't too far behind at .625 (5-3), which is the seventh-highest winning percentage in "clutch" situations.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

WATCH: Boston Celtics vs. Denver Nuggets

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WATCH: Boston Celtics vs. Denver Nuggets

Tune into NBC Sports Boston to watch the Celtics host the Nuggets at TD Garden. You can also click here to watch the Celtics livestream presented by Nissan on the NBC Sports App. Coverage begins at 7 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live Presented by ACE Ticket.

- Game preview: C's look to return to winning ways

- Channel Finder: Make sure you know where to watch

[SHOP: Gear up, Celtics fans!]

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE