Tatum taking things 'one day at a time' as Celtics summer league begins

Tatum taking things 'one day at a time' as Celtics summer league begins

SALT LAKE CITY – When the narrative on Jayson Tatum’s NBA career is written, his first summer league game likely won’t even make it past the first edit.

But for now, this is the most important game for the 19-year-old Celtic, a game that he has been looking forward to for quite some time.

It isn’t because he’s facing Philadelphia and Markelle Fultz, a fellow one-and-done prospect who was taken with the No. 1 overall pick.

It’s not necessarily to prove anything to the coaching staff or his new teammates, either.

It’s a big deal because it’s a game that he can play in, something he and most high draft picks were cautioned against for months as to avoid injury and potentially hurting their draft stock.

But the draft is in the past now, which has allowed Tatum to get back to doing what he loves the most – playing basketball.

“I haven’t competed against somebody since we (Duke) lost to South Carolina (in the NCAA Tournament),” Tatum said during the CelticsTalk Podcast with Kyle Draper and A. Sherrod Blakely. “I can’t wait.”

Well, the wait is just about over with the Celtics kicking off their summer league schedule tonight against the Sixers at 7 p.m. (can be seen on CSN).

It’s still early in his development, but Tatum has impressed both his teammates and the coaching staff.

“Jayson is going to be a great player for a long time,” said Celtics assistant coach Jerome Allen, who will serve as the Celtics’ summer league head coach in Salt Lake City.

And while we’re talking about what he can do as a basketball player, Allen sees Tatum’s demeanor and just the way he carries himself, translating well at whatever he chooses to do in life.

“Whether he’s a basketball player or a business man or lawyer, he possesses the traits to be someone who is successful,” Allen said.

For now, Tatum’s focus is on improving every day in practice and doing whatever he can to help Boston build off the success of last season which included a trip to the Eastern Conference finals which ended with the Celtics losing to Cleveland in five games.

And while he’s enjoying the practice time with his summer league teammates, getting back on the floor in a real five-on-five game is what he’s longing for right now.

“I’m just excited to play my first game,” Tatum said. “It’s been forever. It’s been a dream of mine since I can remember to just get drafted and play in an NBA uniform.”

And although he’s still one of the new guys, you would think he has played for Brad Stevens all his life when he talks about his approach to the game.

“I take it one step at a time,” he said. “Not get too high or too low on expectations; just one day at a time.”

But as the third overall pick in last month’s draft, there are expectations that come with being selected so close to the top of the draft board.

Danny Ainge, Boston’s president of basketball operations, is confident in Tatum’s ability to play well at the NBA level.

But he’s not expecting him to necessarily hit the ground running, especially when you consider the depth Boston has at his position and the fact that he’s so young.

“Again, he’s 19 years old,” Ainge said. “I don’t want to put any expectations … I want to give him time to grow. We’ll see. He’ll definitely have a role, get a chance to play. And how well he performs is up to him.”

Celtics look to continue rolling on the road

AP Photo

Celtics look to continue rolling on the road

It seems all season we’ve talked about the Boston Celtics overcoming adversity, whether it be a bad injury to a key player or a blown assignment leading to a loss.

Nowhere is this more apparent than their play on the road this season which ranks among the best in the NBA.

The Celtics will look to continue on their road warrior-like ways tonight at New Orleans, a team that’s fighting for playoff position in the tighter-than-usual Western Conference.

In recent years, the terrain has been rough for teams from the East venturing into Western Conference territory.

For this year’s Celtics?

Not so much.

Boston comes into tonight’s game with a 17-7 record against Western Conference teams, tops among all teams in the East.

And while Boston has eight road games left this season, they are on pace to finish with one of the best road records in franchise history.

Currently 24-9 away from the TD Garden (tops in the East, third overall in the NBA), that’s a winning percentage of .727 which is the fourth-highest in franchise history.

Here are five under-the-radar story lines to keep an eye on when the Boston Celtics take on the New Orleans Pelicans tonight.


It’s a given that Al Horford will spend time defending Anthony Davis tonight. And while Davis will likely have a strong night scoring the ball, you can count on Horford making it extremely tough on him. When the two teams met on Jan. 16, Davis was 8-for-19 shooting for 16 points in 52 possessions when defended by Horford. For the game, Davis had 45 points on 16-for-34 shooting.


We’ve seen “Playoff" Rondo and “National TV" Rondo deliver some impressive performances in the past. What will we see from “Well-Rested” Rondo? The Pelicans gave the ex-Celtic the night off on Saturday as to not play him in back-to-back games. Of the two games, it made sense to sit him against the Rockets and have him ready to roll against a Boston Celtics team that will not have its full complement of players available.


Pelicans head coach Alvin Gentry had some choice words about the officiating in New Orleans’ 107-101 loss to Houston on Saturday that he clearly felt cost his team a better chance at winning. The only cost in play now is how big will the check be that he’ll pay the league for his comments about the officiating. His issue was that Anthony Davis doesn’t get enough calls based on the physical abuse he takes per game. Davis ranks fourth in the NBA in free throw attempts (7.8) per game, but only had four attempts against the Rockets. It’ll be worth watching whether the Pelicans, 16th in the league in free throw attempts (21.4) per game, will get to the line significantly more or less than their season average.


One of the keys to Boston’s improved play since returning to the floor since the all-star break, has been their ability to begin games with strong play. Boston has outscored their opponent in the first quarter each of the last eight games, and 10 of 11. In addition, Boston has been ahead at the half in each of their 10 games since the all-star break, which comes on the heels of trailing at the half in the seven games prior to the break.


Jayson Tatum has been one of the most impactful rookies in the NBA this season which will likely land him a spot on the NBA’s all-rookie first or second team. One of the strengths of Tatum has been his durability, evident by him being one of just two first-year players to appear in each of his team’s games played this season. He is joined by Memphis’ Dillon Brooks.


WATCH: Boston Celtics at New Orleans Pelicans

NBC Sports Boston illustration

WATCH: Boston Celtics at New Orleans Pelicans

Tune into NBC Sports Boston to watch the Celtics play the Pelicans in New Orleans. You can also click here to watch the Celtics livestream presented by Nissan on the NBC Sports App. Coverage begins at 5:30  p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live Presented by ACE Ticket.

- Game preview: Can C's slow down Anthony Davis?

- Channel Finder: Make sure you know where to watch

[SHOP: Gear up, Celtics fans!]