BOSTON -- While the newest Boston Celtics were scattered about while at a community service event, 19-year-old Jayson Tatum was sitting in a really comfortable-looking chair, resting.
The past few weeks have been a whirlwind unlike any he had ever experienced, beginning with the pre-draft process, to workouts, to the draft itself and all the appearances and media engagements that have followed.
“It’s a lot,” Tatum, grinning, told CSNNE.com. “But I’m taking it one day at a time.”
That steady-as-she-goes approach served him well during his lone season at Duke.
Keeping an even-keeled approach will bode well for him as he gears up for his first taste of NBA basketball beginning with summer league practice this week in preparation for next week’s summer league action which begins in Salt Lake City.
Boston’s summer league opener will be July 3 against Philadelphia and the top overall pick Markelle Fultz, at the University of Utah’s Jon M. Huntsman Center.
Tatum, who has not played in a five-on-five game since Duke’s loss to South Carolina in the NCAA tournament, is admittedly excited to get back on the floor this week.
“I can’t wait,” he said.
Celtics Nation feels the same way about Tatum, selected with the third overall pick in last week’s NBA draft.
Although it’s only a preseason game, there will be expectations and with that, possibly some added pressure for Tatum to show he was such a coveted player by the Celtics.
“That’s why Duke helped me a lot,” he told CSNNE.com. “Duke, the best program in college basketball, we were always on the national spotlight good or bad, whether we were winning or losing. That will help me a lot preparing for the Boston Celtics.”
And like Duke, Tatum will have to fight his way on to the court although he readily admits the challenge is much greater in the NBA.
“Isaiah Thomas, Jaylen Brown, Jae Crowder . . . we didn’t have those guys at Duke,” Tatum said. “It’s gonna be tough; just try my best and get in where I fit in.”
Tatum said he will at times lean on his more experienced teammates, one of which was a former teammate of his – sort of – in Jaylen Brown.
“I’ve known Jaylen for a while,” Tatum said. “We played with and against each other in high school at AAU camps.
Tatum added, “at the AAU camps, sometimes we were on the same team and sometimes we were not.”
While much has been made about how the two are similar, Tatum sees both having strengths that complement, rather than compete, with each other.
“He’s further along than Jaylen was skill-wise and he’s not as far along as Jaylen physically,” said Danny Ainge, Boston’s president of basketball operations. “Again, he’s 19 years old. I don’t want to put any expectations … I want to give him time to grow. We’ll see. He’ll definitely have a role, get a chance to play. And how well he performs is up to him.”
Tatum’s assessment of his game and Brown’s goes as follows:
“He’s a lot stronger, bigger than me,” Tatum, who is 6-foot-8, 204 pounds, acknowledged. “He’s much more athletic. Offensively, I think that’s what I excel in, being smooth and my ability to score. I can just learn from him, the things that he went through last year.”
One of the things he has already picked up on, is that Brown is a pretty smart – and at times clever – dude.
Not long after Tatum picked jersey number 11, Brown, who wears number 7, took to social media and came up with a 7-11 theme that has already lead to some pretty snazzy t-shirt designs.
“I thought it was funny,” Tatum said. “It’s catchy; I like it.”
And the Celtics really like Tatum’s game which has been compared at times to former Celtic great Paul Pierce.
“I hate to make those comparisons when kids are 19 and let his game evolve into whatever it is,” Ainge said. “The similarity is they have good footwork. They both have really good ways to create space for shots. But the similarity … they’re both very good defensive rebounders. Those are two things that stand out to me with Jayson that are Paul characteristics.”
Tatum knows he’s a long way from being in the same company as Celtic royalty such as Pierce.
Before then he must first earn minutes on the floor which will not be an easy task.
But Tatum’s demeanor, much like his game, has seemingly always been a bit more mature than most of his fellow basketball brethren.
Tatum credits his parents, Justin Tatum and Brandy Cole.
“They raised me to be different, be more mature and stand out above the crowd and be my own person and be comfortable in my skin,” Tatum said. “That’s how I’ve always been.”