This Friday is Jayson Tatum Day here at NBC Sports Boston. Be sure to check out our exclusive content around Tatum throughout the day, both online and on the broadcast of Celtics-Timberwolves, which begins Friday at 7 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live followed by tip-off at 8 p.m. You can also stream it on the MyTeams App.
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BOSTON — The emergence of Jayson Tatum into an All-Star this season has been a revelation for many.
Don’t count Brooklyn’s Joe Harris among them.
This past summer, Harris was a teammate of Tatum’s as part of the Team USA contingent that fell well short of their goals in the FIBA World Cup with a seventh-place finish.
While the team may have come up short, Tatum’s play stood out.
“I thought Jayson was the best player on our team this summer,” Harris said. “Obviously there were a lot of talented guys over there. Unfortunately he got hurt about halfway through our trip but he was leading us in a lot of different areas.”
"The presence that he had, what I saw what he brought every day to practice, it was one of those things where he’s super young but he didn’t act like it," Harris added. "He didn’t play like it. I could have told you this summer he would have a pretty good chance to be an All-Star.”
Indeed, the praise has been coming in waves for the 21-year-old, who is averaging career highs in just about every offensive category.
And it is his defense of late that has really shined a much brighter spotlight on his overall game which has him drawing praise from all corners of the basketball world.
Team USA coach Gregg Popovich was admittedly hard on Tatum, a player he believes has the potential to be an elite two-way talent akin to Los Angeles Clippers’ (and former San Antonio Spurs star under Popovich) Kawhi Leonard and Paul George.
It’s one thing to have coaches offer up compliments and words of praise.
But the Tatum hype train includes fellow All-Stars as well.
Toronto All-Star Pascal Siakam, the NBA’s reigning Most Improved Player of the Year, is among those who has been impressed with how Tatum has elevated his game this season.
“He’s been playing unbelievable this season,” Siakam told NBC Sports Boston. “He’s playing with a lot of confidence. Boston is playing great basketball, winning, so man, I’m proud of him. He’s a big young talent.”
And that talent, combined with his youth, makes him a player who coaches will be concerned with limiting for many years to come.
“He’s so young still,” said former Celtics head coach and current Clippers coach Doc Rivers. “We really forget that. Can you imagine five years from now what he’ll be? He’s one of the better players in this league (now); he’s an All-Star. And yet we’re still talking about how young and how much better he’ll be. It’s gonna be amazing.”
Indiana’s All-Star forward Domantas Sabonis considers Tatum one of the tougher players to limit offensively because of his wide-ranging skill-set.
“He’s just talented; he’s a heck of a scorer,” Sabonis told NBC Sports Boston. “He has a lot of weapons. You might take away one thing, but he’s got options C and D. He’s a tough guy to play against.”
A big part of Tatum’s improvement comes down to his work ethic, which, like his game, has been praised by many.
“I can get better; I know this,” Tatum told NBC Sports Boston. “And I will get better. It’s great that I’m 21 years old and I’m already an All-Star. But I’m not done. I’m going to keep working on my game, get better and better and keep working towards being one of the best NBA players around.”