Gregg Popovich and Jayson Tatum

Getty Images

Jayson Tatum learning about sacrificing on the court with Team USA

Nick Friar
August 19, 2019 - 4:38 pm
Categories: 

For all the problems the 2018-19 Celtics appeared to have, none of it would’ve mattered if the product on the floor was unaffected. But it all seemed to manifest into “too many mouths to feed” — something Danny Ainge recently spoke about in his appearance on NBC Sports Boston’s “The Michael Holley Podcast.”

Listen to your team news NOW.

“Brad (Stevens) and I talked, like, how about if we just rest a guy every night? Just so there’s not so many people that want,” Ainge said.

Four of those mouths are gone — Terry Rozier, Kyrie Irving, Al Horford and Marcus Morris — and two new ones were brought in — Kemba Walker and Enes Kanter. (Of course, there are the rookies, but their minute distribution is still very much in the air at this stage.)

Since looks at the rim were harder to come by last season than they were in 2017-18, both Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown went through their share of ups and downs.

Tatum, in particular, was trying to take the next step in his pursuit of stardom. He scored almost two more points per game in his sophomore season, but his field-goal percentage went down a bit (2.5 percent) and his three-point percentage took a more noticeable hit (6.1 percent).

Now playing for Team USA and a few months removed from the Celtics disappointing end in the 2019 NBA Playoffs, Tatum seems to be much more comfortable on the floor. He was able to create space and get to the rim against both Spain and the USA Select Team. And Tatum is getting these good looks even though he’s playing with Walker, Donovan Mitchell, Khris Middleton, Joe Harris and other guys who command shots.

The whole experience — and perhaps last year’s trials — is forcing him to adapt. 

“Just playing with USA, you got to play in a different way,” Tatum told reporters in Melbourne, Australia. “You have to sacrifice because you are playing with 11 great other players. So, we all got to sacrifice something for the bigger goal at hand.”

Team USA’s practices have also pushed Tatum and others to be better. Plus, in the course of things, the entire roster is able to work with Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich, who’s won an NBA title or two — or five.

“I’ve learned a lot,” Tatum said. “He’s obviously one of the greatest coaches of all time, so for me to get an opportunity to play for him, there is nothing more I could ask for.”