BOSTON (CBS) — Paul Pierce was a prolific scorer with a great jump shot during his NBA career, but what made him an NBA champion and Finals MVP were intangible qualities that can’t be coached. So that’s why he talks about those traits when hears Celtics rookie forward Jayson Tatum compared to himself.
Pierce joined SC6 on Wednesday and talked about Tatum, the No. 3 overall pick in the 2017 NBA Draft who earned second team All-NBA honors in this year’s Summer League and now has the best odds of winning the Rookie of the Year award. Tatum has been compared to Pierce in terms of his playing style and scoring ability. But “The Truth” explained why Tatum will also need to show great mental toughness in order to truly reach the standard that the future Hall of Famer set.
“I see a lot of offensive potential [in Tatum],” Pierce said. “You see a lot of these guys come in and they get compared to past, former greats – to Kobe Bryant, Shaq, or whoever. The difference that separates guys of the past is the mentality they brought to the game.
“You can say ‘Oh, he plays like Kobe’ or ‘Oh, he plays like Paul, he has the footwork, the jumper.’ But what people don’t understand is the mentality we carry, the toughness, the grit and that killer instinct. Those are the traits you can’t just install into a player.”
Pierce and Bryant put their killer instincts on full display in the 2008 and 2010 NBA Finals. Tatum has a long way to go to prove he has that kind of winning mentality. But considering the Pierce comparisons and his performance in the Summer League, the rookie’s career is off to a promising start.