C's Return to Garden for Practice, and Tatum Discusses Personal Growth
BOSTON –Thursday afternoon marked the return of the Boston Celtics to TD Garden, where they had not set foot in more than nine months.
Brad Stevens put an end to the 276-day stretch away from the arena by shifting Thursday’s practice session away from the Auerbach Center and into TD Garden.
“We wanted to come down to the Garden today, because we haven’t been in here since we played before we left for the (March 10) Indiana game – I think it was the Oklahoma City game,” Stevens said in reference to Boston’s last home game inside the arena, which was played March 8. “None of us have been in the building, and just walking back in here was nice. It was great to be back in here, even without fans.”
And that’s how it’s going to be for the foreseeable future. There is an expectation that fans will return to TD Garden at some point this season, but for now, games will be played inside the arena without any fans on hand.
Still, even without fans inside the building Thursday afternoon, the team’s return to the marked an additional semblance of normalcy for the returning Celtics. That group includes Jayson Tatum, who soaked in the experience from the moment his vehicle entered the premises.
“It felt good being back. Obviously, it’s been a while,” he said. “It felt good just driving in, walking back, being in the locker room, being on the court.”
Such was the case for Tatum and the other 12 returning Celtics, but for the four newcomers on the roster, it served as a first-time experience. This session marked the first opportunity for Tristan Thompson, Jeff Teague, Aaron Nesmith and Payton Pritchard to drive into the building and head into the home locker room to prep for on-court activities.
In addition to welcoming the newest Celtics to their new home arena, the shift in location also served as a welcomed shake-up for a team that had been restricted to using only the Auerbach Center since its return from the NBA bubble in late-September.
“This change of scenery was nice, too, to do something different,” said Stevens. “We scrimmaged, played up and down a little bit more, and I think that was a real positive. There were some good moments and some bad moments, but we’re getting there.”
There is a bit of urgency for Boston to “get there,” so to speak. The Celtics have only five days remaining until they tip off their first preseason game in Philadelphia, and only 13 days until they tip off the regular season Dec. 23 against the Milwaukee Bucks.
Another noteworthy takeaway from the team’s return to TD Garden was Tatum’s discussion about his personal development. The 22-year-old wing has been very clear in his messaging this preseason that he is not content with the heights he reached last season, which included his first All-Star selection as well as an All-NBA Third Team selection.
Tatum is very hungry for more.
“Just building off the Playoffs, facilitating more, things like that,” he said of his planned development. “Being more efficient. Getting stronger. Being even more of a defensive threat on the defensive end. I just want to continue to get better in every aspect.”
One tool he’s using to assist in accomplishing those goals is the film room. Tatum said he has been studying many players and teams, including the 2016-19 Warriors, to help him reach new heights at the offensive end of the floor.
“I study a lot of guys that score at a high, efficient rate,” he said. “If you look at especially when KD (Kevin Durant) played for the Warriors, all of those guys moved really well off the ball with energy. The ball finds energy. It’s kinda as simple as that.”
Tatum has goals of reaching similar heights to what Durant, Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green reached with Golden State. That includes individual superstardom, and more importantly, championships. The process of doing so isn’t quite as simple as it sounds, but Tatum is committed to the process.
Thursday was an important step toward those goals for both him and the Celtics as a whole. They may not have been surrounded by the best fans in the NBA, but they’re back at TD Garden, and they’re ready to roll.