Pregame Post-Ups: Popovich Enjoyed Being Around C’s Last Summer

Wednesday, Jan. 8 - Spurs at Celtics

Pregame – Popovich Enjoyed Being Around C’s This Summer

BOSTON – Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart, Jayson Tatum and Kemba Walker have all raved about their experience of playing under coach Gregg Popovich this past summer during their time with Team USA in the FIBA World Cup.

Wednesday evening, it was Popovich’s turn to gush about Team Shamrock, as the legendary Spurs coach spoke highly about the Celtics' quartet before facing off against them inside TD Garden.

“All those guys were great,” Popovich said ahead of tip-off. “It was fun to be around. Unfortunately, Marcus and Jayson got hurt, but Jaylen really grew through the process. I think playing with all those guys and the emphasis that we had in a variety of areas, I thought that he picked it up really well.”

Popovich was also impressed with the way Tatum picked things up, particularly on the defensive end, before the young wing sprained his ankle during group stage play in China.

“Let’s just say that Jayson was probably surprised at the attention I gave him defensively,” Popovich said. “But he responded magnificently … There aren’t that many genuine two-way players in the league. Some think they are, but you can count them on one hand, and he’s got the possibility to be one of those.”

C’s coach Brad Stevens was thrilled about the opportunity to have a handful of his players play under such a renowned coaching figure, and he made sure to pick Popovich’s mind after World Cup play was over.

“It was fun for me to talk to him before and after about what we saw from them, and what we thought their best way to impact our team was,” Stevens said. “Then, to see the different things that he challenged them on in their individual conversations, which are between him and the players, but they shared them with us. It’s fun. They got a different experience than they would have if they would have been sitting around.”

Such experience will hopefully benefit those four core players, including tonight, when they face off against their summer mentor and his Spurs.

- Taylor Snow

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