Celtics

Tatum: Time spent with Kobe not the reason for his not-so-great jump last season

Tatum: Time spent with Kobe not the reason for his not-so-great jump last season

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Two games into the preseason and Jayson Tatum is doing all the things that many expected the third-year forward to have done a year ago. 

He’s keeping defenses off balance with his dribble-drive game in which he’s looking to finish at the rim more, while still knocking down his share of mid-range jumpers but cutting down on the long 2-pointers that he used to take often in his first two NBA seasons. 

There have been a ton of theories as to why Tatum’s progress from Year 1 to 2 didn’t go quite as well as he or the Celtics would have liked, including some who believe the time he spent working with Kobe Bryant was more hurtful than helpful to his game. 

Tatum said that couldn’t be any further from the truth.

“Everything he [Bryant] showed me was great,” Tatum said following Boston’s 100-75 preseason win over Orlando in which he had 15 points, five rebounds and three steals. “The jump that I didn’t make that everyone expected [last year], it was not his fault. He’s one of the greatest ever, so … everything he taught me I’m very grateful for and helped me.”

While Tatum’s game showed growth from his rookie season to last year, he acknowledged if there’s anyone to blame for him coming up short of greatness a year ago, it’s on him. 

“I have to take responsibility for how I played last year,” Tatum said.

The team got off to a lackluster start (10-10) in a season that many pegged the Celtics to advance to the NBA Finals. 

Boston would bounce back and win more games, but the season ended with a second-round series loss to the Milwaukee Bucks which set into motion the team’s core being dramatically changed. 

Kyrie Irving left via free agency and signed with the Brooklyn Nets. Al Horford opted out of the final year of his deal with Boston, and wound up signing with the rival Philadelphia 76ers. The Celtics traded away defensive stalwart Aron Baynes to Phoenix to help create enough salary-cap space to sign then-free agent Kemba Walker to a four-year, max-salaried contract. 

All those changes stem from a Celtics team that was underwhelming for far too many stretches last season.

“Nobody looked good last year,” Tatum said. “I got better last year just not what people expected, what I expected. I take full responsibility. That’s why I’m excited about this year.”

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Celtics' Romeo Langford returns to Indiana for first time as NBA player

Celtics' Romeo Langford returns to Indiana for first time as NBA player

INDIANAPOLIS — Injuries and opportunity have kept Romeo Langford on the sidelines more than he would have liked in this, his rookie season. 

But that won’t stop the folks from his hometown of New Albany, Indiana, from making the two-hour trek to Wednesday night’s game to support him and the Boston Celtics in what’s being billed as New Albany Night at Banker’s Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.

Wednesday will be the first time Langford, selected by Boston with the 14th overall pick in last June’s draft, will return to the Hoosier State as a Celtic.

“It’ll be good, just to be back. I haven’t been back home in a while,” Langford told NBC Sports Boston, adding that the last time he was home was sometime in August. “It’s been a while. That first time going back, it’s going to be a good, special time. It’ll be nice for people who saw me grow up, to see me now in an NBA uniform.”

Langford was a four-year starter at New Albany High School and finished his prep career as one of the state’s most decorated basketball players ever. 

He took his talents to nearby Indiana University, where he played for one season before entering last June’s NBA draft.

There are many in the New Albany community eager to see one of their own come back.  

“We are excited to partner with the Pacers to provide our fans and community with an opportunity to celebrate Romeo’s return to Indiana,” New Albany Athletic Director B.J. McAlister said in a statement. “Our city’s support of Romeo over his high school and college careers was outstanding, and now everyone will get a chance to cheer him on in his first NBA game in our state.

Langford is with the Celtics but won’t see any action against the Pacers as he recovers from a sprained ankle.

“It is frustrating, but you just have to deal with it, try to get better and get back out there as soon as you can,” said Langford, referring to the series of injuries he has had thus far. “That’s all I really can do.”

Langford said he is feeling a lot better and thinks it’s just a matter of days before he’s officially cleared to resume full basketball activities.

Whether he plays or not, there’s very little that can damper Langford’s spirits on the eve of his first homecoming as an NBA player. 

“Like I said, it’ll be good to see a lot of people who helped me get to where I am now, at the game,” Langford said. “I’m looking forward to it.”

Don't miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-Pacers, which tips off Wednesday at 6 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live, and then Mike & Scal have the call at 7 p.m. You can also stream the game on the MyTeams App.

Celtics eye a potential return from Marcus Smart (eye infection) vs. Pacers

Celtics eye a potential return from Marcus Smart (eye infection) vs. Pacers

INDIANAPOLIS -- Yes, there is a chance that the Boston Celtics will have their defensive anchor back in the mix for Wednesday’s game against the Indiana Pacers. 

Marcus Smart, who did not play in Boston’s 110-88 victory over Cleveland due to an eye infection, made the trip to Indiana with the team but is still considered questionable to play. 

If the Celtics’ defensive stalwart is indeed healthy enough to play, it’ll be interesting to see whether he comes off the bench or rejoins the starting lineup.

Smart began the season coming off the bench while playing starter-like minutes. 

Once Gordon Hayward went down with a fourth metacarpal fracture of his left hand on Nov. 9, Smart was back in the starting lineup and, by and large, did a solid job. 

Will head coach Brad Stevens bring Smart off the bench like he did to start the season, or will he go with more of a mix-and-match kind of lineup that has one of their wings — Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum or Hayward — slide over to being a big-time, difference-making reserve?

No matter how they decide to use Smart, you can rest assured that he will make an impact of some kind. 

Don't miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-Pacers, which tips off Wednesday at 6 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live, and then Mike & Scal have the call at 7 p.m. You can also stream the game on the MyTeams App.