Jayson Tatum has already established himself as one of the biggest stars in the NBA.
But after another discouraging playoff exit against the Miami Heat in the 2023 Eastern Conference Finals, the Celtics franchise forward enters a pivotal season with a roster ranked among the title favorites.
Throughout the summer, Tatum posted numerous videos of himself working on his craft, both on the court and in the gym.
A familiar face during Tatum’s offseason reps was Celtics legend Paul Pierce, who heaped praise on the four-time All-Star during an appearance on Showtime Basketball’s “KG Certified.”
“It reminds me of the process I was going through to get ready for the season,” Pierce told Kevin Garnett about training with Tatum over the summer. “Just being able to watch him and see him do the things that make him great is an honor.
“He’s one of the five best players in the league, so it’s an honor to be there and watch him go through his journey to watch him prepare. I’m definitely there with some support, just to see his growth. He’s already at the top of the food chain, so I’m just part of a support system.
According to Pierce, it was his former Celtics teammate – and current Boston assistant coach – Sam Cassell who encouraged him and Tatum to begin their offseason rehearsals together.
“Really, I went with Sam to watch his training. So that’s kind of Sam (initiated it),” Pierce said, as transcribed by Chris Forsberg on NBC Sports Boston. “With all this, with me and him, I’m just here for support. And it gets me back in shape.
Tatum regularly praised Pierce for his accomplishments on the floor, even though he was a Kobe Bryant fan growing up.
In an interview with writer and NBA insider Jeff Goodman earlier this month, Tatum ranked Pierce among the greatest to ever play for the Celtics — noting that he wants to join such rare company as he continues his own playing career.
“I would love to be on the Celtics’ Mount Rushmore,” Tatum told Goodman. “Bird, Russell, Paul Pierce and those guys. They paved the way. The only thing all these guys have is chips. I have to reach the top of the mountain to be considered one of these guys. I want to be an all-time great, I want to be known as a winner and I believe I will be.
Even though Tatum is arguably one of the best pure scorers in the game today, former Celtics guard Tony Allen believes the 25-year-old forward can still learn a lot from Pierce as he looks to lead Boston to that elusive 18th championship.
“That search-and-destroy mentality,” Allen, also a guest on “KG Certified,” said of what Tatum can gain from Pierce. “I’m not saying Tatum doesn’t understand, but (Pierce) works with him. I think it’s a good idea. I think that goes a long way, (rather than) just being with a random coach telling you, “Back up, back up.” I think it’s a mentality thing when you get that stone.
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