Los Angeles Lakers

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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Kyrie Irving exits Nets-Lakers after taking a Rajon Rondo shot to face

Kyrie Irving exits Nets-Lakers after taking a Rajon Rondo shot to face

If you believe bad omens come in the form of elbows to the face, then you don't have a good feeling about Kyrie Irving right now.

The All-Star point guard made his Brooklyn Nets debut Thursday morning in a preaseason matchup with the Los Angeles Lakers in Shanghai, China.

It lasted all of 66 seconds, as Irving caught an elbow from Lakers point guard Rajon Rondo directly in the face.

This is the second facial injury Irving has suffered with Brooklyn, as he suffered a facial fracture in late September after being elbowed during a pickup game and was wearing a protective mask Thursday as a result.

Needless to say, he wasn't happy about this stroke of bad luck.

Boston Celtics fans who watched the 27-year-old divide the 2018-19 C's before bolting to Brooklyn may say Irving's injury is karma (especially since another ex-Celtic, Rondo, delivered the blow).

There's no update on his injury yet, but the Nets, already without Kevin Durant for the entire season, will be hoping their other prized free agent acquisition won't have to miss time after an unfortunate beginning with his new club.

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Rich Paul addresses Anthony Davis trade talks with Danny Ainge

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USA Today Sports

Rich Paul addresses Anthony Davis trade talks with Danny Ainge

Anthony Davis joining the Boston Celtics long-term wasn't going to happen, and the star forward's agent Rich Paul made sure Danny Ainge knew that. 

As just about everyone knows — unless you've been living under a rock — Ainge highly coveted Davis. But he wasn't necessarily too keen on trading away some of his young stars like Jayson Tatum. 

Had he decided to give up Tatum and more for the 26-year-old, the C's would've put themselves in a deep hole as Davis would've walked in free agency

"The last thing you want to do is put a GM in a situation where he trades away an asset and then the guy walks out the door," Paul said according to ESPN's Dave McMenamin. "Like, you can't do business that way. So it's not really a hard conversation to have."

What's even more interesting, is the fact Ainge continued to pursue Davis, according to Paul — knowing he wouldn't return at the end of his five-year, $127 million deal. 

"And I don't think it stopped Danny Ainge from trying. It's just that maybe he didn't have the deal [he wanted]. He wasn't willing to give up the young players, which I don't blame him. I wouldn't give them up either if the guy is not going to re-sign."

Pelicans executive vice president of basketball operations David Griffin noted that Paul did a terrific job of pushing away any competition for Davis — a.k.a the Celtics. 

"Rich had done such an effective job of smoking out all of the competition for the Lakers that we were left with the sense that the best deal is going to very likely come from them," Griffin said. "And if we can get X-Y-Z, we have to execute the deal."

The Lakers always were going to provide the best deal for the Pelicans, so going that route obviously made the most sense. Although they couldn't land Davis, Ainge referred to the additions of Kemba Walker and Enes Kanter as his "Plan A," which definitely is interesting considering he wanted to re-sign Kyrie Irving as well as acquire Davis above all else this summer. 

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