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.”
Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Celtics easily on your device.