BOSTON (CBS) — An ankle injury ended Jayson Tatum’s run with Team USA in the FIBA World Cup. But the injury will not limit him when Celtics training camp tips off on Tuesday.
“I’m good now. I’ll be ready tomorrow,” Tatum told reporters at Monday’s Media Day in Canton.
Tatum played in just two games for Team USA, injuring his left ankle toward the end of their first-round win over Turkey. It kept him out of six games at the World Cup, though it won’t scare him off from playing for Team USA in 2020, if he’s asked to do so.
As for the upcoming season with the Celtics, the third-year forward is focused on taking his offensive game to the next level. After a breakout rookie season, Tatum took a bit of a step back in Boston’s disappointing 2018-19 campaign, especially in terms of efficiency. Far too often Tatum found himself in no-man’s land, in between taking a three and driving to the hoop. More often than not, he put up long jumpers that didn’t fall.
That will change this season, as Tatum has a new game plan and approach on the offensive end.
“Getting to the basket much more,” he said. “Shoot more threes; threes and layups. And free throws. If you want to be a great scorer in this league, you have to get to the line. Free throws is super important. Getting to the basket opens up the rest of the game.
“Threes are worth more than twos,” he added.
Tatum also said he talked with Team USA head coach Gregg Popovich a lot about how he could make an impact on the game when he isn’t putting the ball in the basket.
“The thing I talked about with Pop a lot was being able to dominate and have an impact on the game without necessarily scoring,” said Tatum. “Everybody has off nights, but how can you still find a way to be super dominate and affect the game in a positive way, and just making quicker decisions, playing faster, just getting to the basket more and not trying to settle.”
All of that has to be music to Brad Stevens’ ears. It sounds like we’re about to see a new Jayson Tatum, and not just one who can almost grow a full beard.
But Tatum wouldn’t place any expectations on the upcoming season, not on himself or on his team. The expectations of last season weighed too heavy on the entire team, and played a role in the team’s downfall.
Heading into this season, Tatum is blocking everything out — the good and the bad.
“I’ve never really been one affected by outside noise, no matter how good people tell me I’m doing or how bad people tell me I’m doing,” he said. “I never get too high or too low. Just try to focus on the task at hand and enjoy it.”