Celtics well-represented on 2020 U.S. Olympic basketball team finalist list

Celtics well-represented on 2020 U.S. Olympic basketball team finalist list

A quartet of Boston Celtics players represented USA Basketball at the 2019 FIBA World Cup.

We could see as many as five Celtics representatives at the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo.

Kemba Walker, Marcus Smart, Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum and Gordon Hayward are among the 44 finalists who could make the 2020 U.S. Men's Olympic Team.

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With five players on the list, the Celtics are tied with the Los Angeles Lakers for the most well-represented team. Walker, Smart, Tatum and Brown all made the FIBA World Cup squad, with Walker (13.4 points, 5.0 assists and 4.6 rebounds per game) leading the way for a USA team that finished a disappointing seventh.

Several American NBA stars declined to play in that tournament, though, and the Celtics' contingent should face stiffer competition to make the Olympic roster, which typically includes the best NBA talent. (None of the current Celtics were on the U.S. team that won gold at the 2016 Olympics in Rio.)

But Team USA head coach Gregg Popovich has spoken glowingly about each C's player on his FIBA World Cup roster -- especially Tatum -- so it's possible Boston could land one or two players on the final 12-man roster.

Team USA will announce its final roster "later this year," according to USA Basketball. Celtics fans also could see two more familiar faces at the 2020 Olympics: Daniel Theis represented Germany at the FIBA World Cup, while Vincent Poirier could suit up for France.

The 2020 Olympics begin on July 24 in Tokyo.

Don't miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-Rockets, which begins Tuesday at 8:30 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live followed by tip-off at 9:30 p.m. You can also stream the game on the MyTeams App.

Celtics star Jayson Tatum could be 'the guy' in the NBA, says ex-teammate

Celtics star Jayson Tatum could be 'the guy' in the NBA, says ex-teammate

Jayson Tatum is making the leap to the upper echelon of NBA stars during his third season with the Boston Celtics.

The 22-year-old forward made his first NBA All-Star Game appearance, he was named Eastern Conference Player of the Month for February and he has established himself as the team's best player.

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One of Tatum's teammates during his rookie season was Shane Larkin, who spent this past season excelling for Turkish team Anadolu Efes in the EuroLeague. Larkin knew early on the special kind of talent Tatum possessed, and he preached a message of patience to Boston's young star.

"It's unreal," Larkin said on the latest Celtics Talk Podcast. "I talk to JT all the time, and it's funny, I just saw him do that podcast, 'All the Smoke', and he was talking about that stuff with Phoenix, when he went out there, and he was like, 'Phoenix is where I want to be.' I remember having conversations with him his rookie year and I was like, 'Bro, just be patient.' He was so talented, he wanted to get out there and immediately be who he wanted to be, and I'm like, 'You're 19 years old, bro, just be patient, relax, you're time is going to come and you're going to be one of the top guys in this league.' I've been saying that for years, and now you see what he's been doing. Sometimes it takes guys a year or two years to finally get that opportunity to be who they're going to be. This year was his time, and he took it and ran with it. Now, he's well on his way to being one of the best players in this league, for sure."

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If the 2019-20 regular season does not continue, Tatum will have averaged career highs with 23.6 points and 7.1 rebounds per game, while also shooting 44.8 percent from the floor and 39.8 percent on 3-point shots.

How high is ceiling's Tatum, according to Larkin? Could he actually become the best player in the league?

"I don't see any reason why he can't be 'the guy' in the league. He has every single ability that he needs to have -- he has the size, he has the length, he has the IQ," Larkin said. "He can defend, he competes. He's so young, and he has so much potential that there's no reason why he can't be, and he shouldn't settle for anything less. 

"The great thing about JT is I think he has that mentality. I think you saw that his rookie year. He came in with that mentality -- he was patient, he didn't force it. He was very efficient as a rookie. He gained more responsibility and took it in stride. He's just met every single challenge head on, and he's been doing great. I'm happy for him."

The Celtics will be in the playoffs if the current season resumes, and even though Boston has a deep and very talented roster, the team's postseason run likely would only go as far as Tatum takes it.

Shane Larkin's lone season with Celtics "huge step" toward EuroLeague superstardom

Shane Larkin's lone season with Celtics "huge step" toward EuroLeague superstardom

BOSTON -- While Shane Larkin appeared in 54 games (two starts) with the Boston Celtics, playing time wasn’t nearly as plentiful as he would have wanted. 

But like most of the players who have come through town since head coach Brad Stevens’ arrival in 2013, Larkin left on good terms. 

And some of the lessons learned during his time in Boston, Larkin credits for being instrumental in his growth and development into arguably the best player in EuroLeague play this past season. 

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“Overall, I became a much better basketball player, playing in Boston,” Larkin said on the Celtics Talk Podcast. “Just the way I saw the game, the way I read the game.”

While playing with Turkey’s Anadolu Efes, Larkin led the team to a EuroLeague-best record while averaging 22.2 points on 53.0 percent shooting from the field, 50.9 percent shooting on 3’s, along with making 90.3 percent of his free throws. 

As a Celtic, Larkin acknowledged having a familiar face also helped his acclimation process. 

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Larkin had an established relationship with Celtics assistant coach Jay Larranaga, whose father Jim Larranaga was Larkin’s head coach at the University of Miami. 

In Boston, Jay Larranaga was the Celtics’ assistant coach who Larkin spent the most time working with on his shooting and various ball-handling skills. 

On those nights when Larkin would not get into games or play limited minutes, he was back in the gym the following day with Larranaga, focused on improving his all-around game to best ensure when his opportunity to play arrived that he would indeed be ready. 

“That year, on the court and off the court, mentally, physically, I just took a huge step in my development as a man, as a player,” Larkin said. “And it has really helped me get to where I am today.

Larkin added, “Boston has a great thing, a great setup right now. And if you’re lucky enough to be a Celtic at this current time, you’re definitely going to come out of there in much better shape than you went in.”