Jayson Tatum shoots a layup for Team USA

How Participation with Team USA Will Change Four Celtics

BOSTON – Four Celtics players - nearly one-third of Boston’s roster – have been selected to participate in Team USA’s training camp in August ahead of the 2019 World Cup. That’s a big deal for the Celtics, because those four players will have the opportunity to learn under the tutelage of USA head coach Gregg Popovich and his All-World staff.

This is an opportunity for Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart, Jayson Tatum and Kemba Walker to have something unlocked in their respective games that could otherwise go untapped. It could be something as simple as an angle of attack, or it could be something as significant as the development of a particular move. Whatever it might be, something is better than nothing, especially in August and early-September.

One way or another, they will leave the five-day training camp as better players than they were when they arrived. Their development will only be intensified if they do, in fact, make the final 12-man roster that will eventually play in the World Cup in China.

Such is a guarantee under the tutelage of Popovich, Steve Kerr and Jay Wright, who comprise Team USA’s coaching staff. While Brown, Smart and Tatum have played under a great coach in Brad Stevens for their entire professional careers, and while Walker has been led by four separate head coaches with the Charlotte Hornets, none of them are Popovich, who might be the GOAT.

Popovich has led the San Antonio Spurs to unprecedented success during his 23-year tenure as their head coach. The team won at least 50 games for a record 18 consecutive seasons, all while winning five titles. Popovich has earned three NBA Coach of the Year awards.

Kerr and Wright are highly accomplished coaches in their own right. Kerr has led the Golden State Warriors to five consecutive NBA Finals appearances, including three championships. Wright, meanwhile, has won two NCAA national championships as head coach at Villanova University.

Do not misinterpret the message here: This training camp and the ensuing tournament isn’t about Brown, Smart, Tatum and Walker playing under better coaches; it’s about them playing under other coaches, which cracks open the door of the unknown.

Every time a player is taught by a new coach, there is an opportunity for growth. That coach might see something from a new and different perspective, or teach something in a particular way that makes something click for that particular player.

This has been done time and time again by Popovich in San Antonio, which adds to his growing lore. Countless players quietly entered the Spurs system and turned into highly-regarded NBA players.

The magic started with Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili, who were the 28th and 57th overall picks in their respective drafts and went on to build Hall of Fame careers. Kawhi Leonard, a No. 15 pick, is well on his way to doing the same. Even DeMar DeRozan, a four-time All-Star, put together his best all-around statistical season as a pro during his first under Popovich.

Many other Spurs players have surpassed their assumed ceilings as well. Think of guys like Patty Mills, Dejounte Murray, Kyle Anderson, Danny Green, Boris Diaw, Cory Joseph and Marco Belinelli, who were relative unknowns until they played under Popovich.

Player development is real, and Popovich could very well be the best at it. Players improve under his tutelage, be it for a day, a week, a month, or years. The same can be said for disciples of Kerr and Wright.

That’s why Boston should be excited about four of its core players being members of Team USA’s training camp. Brown, Smart, Tatum and Walker are in position to learn and develop with this team, which will make life even better for Stevens and the Celtics when their training camp opens in late-September.


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