Celtics' Jayson Tatum wants more than bounce-back season: 'I want to be one of the best'

Celtics' Jayson Tatum wants more than bounce-back season: 'I want to be one of the best'

LAS VEGAS — Celtics forward Jayson Tatum admitted he didn’t come close to meeting lofty expectations last season — both those he placed upon himself and those from the outside world — but he’s eager to assert himself as one of the NBA’s elite this season.

"I want to be one of the best,” Tatum said after Team USA’s practice Tuesday on the campus of UNLV. "There’s a lot of challenges that come with that. I’m excited.”

Tatum noted last week that he wanted to make a “bigger jump” this season, hinting that he didn’t play to his own expectations last year. Pressed on the topic Tuesday, Tatum admitted he came away wanting more, especially in a season that frustrated many on Boston’s roster.

"Man, it’s hard to pinpoint one thing from last season,” said Tatum. "All my stats were better, I did better, just not the jump that I expected — and the rest of the world expected. Which, I should have known with the team, the dynamics —  we had so many guys, so many talented people trying to win a championship and everybody had to sacrifice and step back a little bit. It didn’t work. 

"Last year is behind us. Everybody is kinda tired of talking about last season. We got a new team, new guys, so we’re just trying to move on, get ready for next season.”

Tatum, 21, believes a bigger leap starts with him carrying himself like an NBA superstar.

"Be more assertive, be more vocal than I was in my first two years,” said Tatum. "I was really the new guy so I didn’t say too much. But now I’ve earned the respect of the coaches and teammates and people around the league so just being able to talk a little bit more.”

Tatum’s 2018-19 season has been heavily dissected. While he owned the best on-court net rating on the Celtics, among high-volume players — higher even than All-Star Kyrie Irving and Al Horford — Tatum didn’t make the statistical leaps that many believed were coming after his loud 2018 postseason. Expectations might have been out of whack from the moment Tatum dunked on LeBron James in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals but Tatum still expected more from himself.

Teammate Jaylen Brown said that Tatum might be a little too hard on himself. But he understands Tatum’s desire to show that these young Celtics haven’t come close to their potentials.

"I think he had a solid year. He’s probably his toughest critic,” said Brown. "I didn’t think he had as bad a year as he probably thought he did. I think he still produced, I think he still got to show people what he can do. 

"I’m sure, in his eyes, he has a lot more he wants to show the world, as do I. So I can feel him in that regard. He had a solid year, it wasn’t as bad as people tried to make it out to be.”

If Tatum had a so-called down year last season, it hasn’t seemingly affected the way he’s viewed around the NBA. Tatum signed on with Michael Jordan’s “Jumpman” brand this summer and, during a promotional event in Paris, he might have greased the skids for Kemba Walker’s decision to join the Celtics.

Walker said Tuesday that he talked with Tatum for nearly an hour in Paris and it might have been the final nudge Walker needed to later commit to Boston. Walker has glowed about his new teammates, particularly the combo of Tatum and Brown, and the opportunity to play alongside a talented young duo.

"Those dudes are so talented, it’s unbelievable,” said Walker. "I competed against those guys, what, four times a year? Might catch a few games here or there. End of the day, you don’t see them every day. You know what I mean? For me, to be here and see those guys, and the way they compete and how much passion and love they have for the game, the intensity they have for the game, that’s special to me.”

Tatum noted how he and Brown have pushed each other throughout their young NBA careers and continue to do such. The duo played “King of the Court,” a rotating 1-on-1 game, with Team USA teammates after practice Monday and Tatum had some dominating stretches. He joked he’s got the upper hand on Brown in their career series against one another.

Both, overall, they’re both pulling on the same rope. Tatum and Brown are both eager to show that last year wasn’t a reflection of what they will someday be.

"This year, I look at it as a new canvas,” said Brown. “We’re artists, and it’s time to paint.”

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NBA Rumors: GMs in favor of play-in tournament when season resumes

NBA Rumors: GMs in favor of play-in tournament when season resumes

On Thursday, the NBA took another step toward figuring out the best way to return to action.

Commissioner Adam Silver held a conference call with the league's general managers to review a survey that was delivered to teams last week. In the survey, GMs voted on potential formats to resume play.

Kevin O'Connor of The Ringer reports about 75 percent of GMs were in favor of a play-in tournament between bubble teams rather than a World Cup-style group stage. Front-running teams such as the Los Angeles Lakers and Milwaukee Bucks favored the play-in tourney as it would give them a far easier path to the NBA Finals.

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More from O'Connor:

General managers were surveyed about a 'playoffs-plus' format—either a play-in tournament between the bubble teams to determine the final seeds in the playoffs, or a World Cup–style group stage, which would replace the end of the regular season and the first round of the playoffs with a round-robin format. About 75 percent of teams voted in favor of a play-in tournament, sources said, while 25 percent of teams voted in favor of the group stage.

Although many GMs are in favor of the play-in tournament, that doesn't mean the league will go in that direction.

“Adam [Silver] isn’t taking the results seriously,” a team executive told O'Connor. “Every team is obviously gonna vote for what’s best for them.”

Still, it's a noteworthy development and one that could not only impact how the NBA proceeds with its 2019-20 campaign, but also how it approaches future playoff formats.

For more details from O'Connor, check out his full article here.

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Celtics At Home: Daniel Theis recalls experience playing games without fans

Celtics At Home: Daniel Theis recalls experience playing games without fans

The Boston Celtics hosting a playoff game in an empty arena would be a bizarre experience.

Take it from the guy who's played in front of empty arenas.

Celtics big man Daniel Theis played several years of professional basketball in his native Germany before joining the C's in 2017. On the latest episode of NBC Sports Boston's "Celtics At Home," Theis explained that preseason games often didn't have fans, which created an atmosphere he didn't exactly enjoy.

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"It's definitely weird just thinking about it," Theis told host Brian Scalabrine. "Thinking back for me, playing in Germany in preseason games when you have scrimmages and no fans in there. You hear every voice, every word, every step. It's annoying."

Games without fans could be the NBA's new reality as it aims to safely resume play amid the coronavirus pandemic. Germany's top soccer league, the Bundesliga -- which Theis has been following intently -- is already playing games in empty arenas.

But while Theis wants to get back on the court, he doesn't sound thrilled about playing games without fans again -- especially if that means losing the home-crowd advantage that Boston provides.

"When I watched the soccer games this weekend, it was just -- it didn't feel right," Theis said. "Especially in Boston, when it comes to the playoffs and the fans at TD Garden are so important and so loud ... Then I can imagine now just playing a playoff game with nobody in there, it feels probably like a practice game or scrimmage."

Theis also discussed some of the Celtics' best Zoom guest speakers during Episode Three of "Celtics At Home," which includes guest appearances from C's legends Tommy Heinsohn and Bill Walton.

Check out the full episode of "Celtics At Home" below or on our YouTube page: