The way Jayson Tatum saw it, starting for the Celtics was a matter of when – not if – it would happen.
The 6-foot-8 forward got the call on Friday and proved he was up to the challenge with a fast start that helped Boston pull away for a 110-102 win over Philadelphia.
Tatum had nine points which included him making his first three shots from the field.
Celtics head coach Brad Stevens had told Tatum that he would be looking to start different lineups in the preseason, so Tatum assumed at some point he would be getting the call to play with the first unit.
Tatum said he felt “way more comfortable” against Philly in comparison to his first preseason game against Charlotte on Monday.
“I was more calm, relaxed,” Tatum said.
Part of that certainly had to do with him being on the floor to start the game with the team’s Big Three of Kyrie Irving, Gordon Hayward and Al Horford in addition to his best friend on the team, Jaylen Brown.
Said Stevens: “I figured he would look good with those guys.”
Tatum added, “It makes it easier (starting). I’m playing with Gordon, Kyrie and Al. People not worrying about me. So when they help, I can make easy shots.”
For Tatum’s teammates, his play on Friday was just an extension of what he has been doing throughout the preseason in practice.
What often jumps out about Tatum when he’s on the floor, is the maturity he shows when it comes to doing what is necessary to be effective.
On offense, he was matched up early on with Philadelphia’s J.J. Redick who is at least four inches shorter. Rather than trying to back Redick down deep into the paint, Tatum backed him down just enough to where he was in his sweet, mid-range spot and simply shot over him.
And in transition, Tatum made a point of getting to the spots on the floor where he’s most comfortable.
Besides pulling up for jumpers in transition, Tatum also has the ability to put it on the floor and finished with a powerful one-handed dunk.
Irving has been quizzed about Tatum often, and admits he’s running low on superlatives when it comes to describing his teammate.
“I don’t know how many other quotes I can give you guys about Jayson,” said Irving who led all scorers with 21 points which included 5-for-7 from 3-point range. “He’s just such an awesome kid. He’s like a big kid. He’s just going to continue to get better and every single day he values that as we all do as teammates to encourage him and encourage each other.”