Joe Harris calls Jayson Tatum Team USA's 'best player' from 2019 FIBA World Cup

Joe Harris calls Jayson Tatum Team USA's 'best player' from 2019 FIBA World Cup

The Boston Celtics had a prominent presence on Team USA during the summer of 2019. The squad that competed for the FIBA World Cup title featured four members of the Celtics: Kemba Walker, Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, and Marcus Smart.

While the team lost early in the tournament and snapped a historically-long undefeated streak for Team USA via an exhibition loss to Australia, the group did have some nice moments. And it's worth noting that one Team USA player thought a Celtics player shined brightest of all during the tournament.

As Brooklyn Nets shooting guard Joe Harris explained, he thought Tatum was the best of the bunch for the USA squad.

“I thought Jayson was probably the best player on our team this summer,” said Harris at NBA's All-Star weekend, per Joe Vardon of The Athletic. “Obviously there were a lot of talented guys there. Unfortunately he got hurt halfway through our trip, but he was leading us in a lot of different areas. It wasn’t this huge statistical thing, I think it was more the presence that he had. What I saw, what he brought every day to practice. It was one of those things where he is super young, but he didn’t act like it, he didn’t play like it, and I could’ve told you this summer that he’d have a pretty good chance to be here today as an All-Star.”

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Tatum only played in two games for Team USA after suffering a sprained ankle, but he did average 24.5 points and 7.5 rebounds per game. That closely mirrors the 22.4 points and 6.9 boards that he has averaged so far during the 2019-20 season, his first All-Star campaign. And Tatum only playing in the two wins, not the two losses, is notable as well.

But Harris' point about Tatum having a presence and playing beyond his years may be even more important. If he can continue to develop, keep that presence about him and emerge as a leader, there's no telling what his ceiling could be.

Tatum will look to continue his hot play of late following the All-Star break. And no matter what happens with the C's, it seems that Tatum is tracking toward becoming a star player at the NBA level.

And his peers, like Harris, are recognizing that.

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.

That 617 Life Podcast: What can NBA do to improve dunk and 3-point contests?

That 617 Life Podcast: What can NBA do to improve dunk and 3-point contests?

If you missed this year's NBA All-Star Game, you missed one of the most entertaining All-Star events in recent sports history.

Team LeBron vs. Team Giannis came down to the wire, with both teams battling at 100-percent effort to reach the target score of 157 under the game's new format. Defense was being played at a tremendously high level, which we've hardly ever seen in any NBA All-Star Game. Toronto Raptors star Kyle Lowry even took two charges.

But as great as the game was, All-Star Weekend as a whole could still use some improvement. Particularly in the dunk and 3-point contests.

On the latest edition of the "That 617 Life" podcast, hosts Leroy Irvin, Shanda Foster, and Cerrone Battle discuss what the NBA could do to make them better:

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Battle thought the 3-point and dunk contests were entertaining, but would like to see more participants:

Another issue I have with All-Star Weekend when it comes to the 3-point contest and the dunk contest is the amount of participants ... I remember Terry Porter and Mark Price going at it at the same time. It was like 12 guys in the contest, you know what I'm saying?

And in the dunk contest -- I mean at one point back in the 80's it was like 10 dudes trying to win it. And it's like now, as good as it is, I would love to see more participants. I want to see more people in it. I want to see a longer contest. A true tournament.

Foster agrees with Battle and wants to see some of the biggest stars in the league step up to join in on the festivities.

They need to bring that back. I got really sick and tired of seeing -- and you know, I get it, it's the vacation -- but it was irritating to see the big names just flossing all their photos on Instagram from vacation when it's like, you know, it's All-Star break -- it's called All-Star for a reason. It's not "All-Star" if the All-Stars aren't all there.

For more NBA All-Star Weekend discussion, you can click here to listen and subscribe to Thar 617 Life Podcast.

Celtics' Jayson Tatum hopes to add lessons learned from All-Star vets to his game

Celtics' Jayson Tatum hopes to add lessons learned from All-Star vets to his game

CHICAGO — Talent alone has not gotten Jayson Tatum to where he’s at now in the NBA.

At every stage of his development, there have been lessons learned from sage veterans who have in some way contributed to his steady progress.

So it’s no surprise that one of the biggest takeaways for Tatum during All-Star Weekend was taking away as much knowledge as he could from more seasoned All-Stars. 

Among them was Chris Paul, a 10-time All-Star who plays for the Oklahoma City Thunder and was instrumental in Team LeBron’s 157-155 win over Team Giannis in Sunday’s All-Star Game. 

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During the practice session prior to Sunday’s game, the two had an animated conversation that eventually included Paul walking Tatum through how he at 6-foot, was able to defend Tatum — eight inches taller — when the Thunder and Celtics met prior to the All-Star break. 

NBA.com/stats shows that Tatum was 2-for-4 shooting when defended by Paul, with six points coming on a pair of 3's. 

But what doesn't show up in the numbers was how Paul was able to prevent Tatum from posting up, something Tatum talked to Paul about during their All-Star practice session. 

It was the kind of exchange that speaks to Tatum's willingness to learn from those around him, and only adds to the narrative about Paul this season as a player who not only continues to play at a high level but is open to helping the next generation of NBA greats to improve their overall games as well. 

For Tatum, all of the veteran All-Stars were more than open to providing a few tips about their game. 

“It’s real cool, especially coming from Chris,” Tatum, who had six points for Team LeBron, told NBC Sports Boston. “He’s been a really good player for a really long time; I’m trying to be like that, too.”

Tatum said he has known Paul dating back to when he was in high school, which is when one of Tatum’s best friends and former Duke teammate Harry Giles played for Paul’s AAU team. 

But as cool as Paul was in discussing how he defended Tatum, there are still parts of Paul’s game Tatum already knows he won’t divulge. 

“He didn’t show me everything,” Tatum said, grinning. “But he showed me a couple things. I’m gonna try and use that next time we play.”

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.