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 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.’’’