Joining Celtics a "Dream Come True" for Tatum

WALTHAM, Mass. – Jayson Tatum’s versatile skill set and sky-high potential were major drawing factors for the Boston Celtics as they narrowed down their top prospects for the NBA Draft. Once they coupled those aspects with the 19-year-old forward's top-notch mental makeup and extraordinary work ethic, it was an easy decision for the C's to select him No. 3 overall in the NBA Draft.

If you watched Tatum's selection Thursday night on TV, you surely saw his on-court skills displayed via highlight packages. Less than 12 hours after the conclusion of the Draft, the C's introduced their newest member to Celtics Nation in a press conference, during which his off-court qualities were revealed.

President of basketball operations Danny Ainge, head coach Brad Stevens, managing partner, governor and CEO Wyc Grousbeck, and managing partner and alternate governor Steve Pagliuca all gushed over the Duke product Friday afternoon as they sat on either side of him at a podium inside the Celtics’ training facility.

“We’ve watched Jayson a lot over the last couple of years and we’re very excited to have him,” Ainge proudly remarked in an opening statement. “He has terrific upside as a player, great work ethic and his parents have done an amazing job of raising this young man. I think he’ll be great in our community, in our locker room, and he’ll also be making some shots, I think. Just a very good player, a great young man, and we’re very excited to have him here in Boston.”

Tatum also expressed enthusiasm Friday afternoon as he addressed the media and Celtics Nation for the first time. Judging by his praiseful comments, it seems as if he was born to play in green.

“It was a dream come true to be drafted by the best franchise in NBA history,” was the first statement that came out of Tatum’s mouth.

He later conveyed his eagerness to play in front of what he referred to as “the best fans in the world,” come October.

First, however, Tatum must learn the ropes of what it takes to be a Celtic on the court and off the court. That process begins later this week when Boston’s Summer League squad begins practice.

For Brad Stevens, the coaching process has already begun with his newest pupil.

“I told Jayson this morning that before anybody on our Summer League roster takes the floor, we’ll talk about who we want to be and how we want to go about our approach in our business,” said Stevens. “It will be a good three-day mini camp to get a pulse on how we’ll play. It won’t be exactly like we’ll play come September (in training camp), but a lot of the lingo, some of the coverages, some of the offensive structure, those types of things – although quick in three days – will help kind of create that new foundation so that he can immerse himself.”

Many players would be overwhelmed by a jam-packed, three-day mini-camp, and understandably so – it’s a lot to handle. That being said, the Celtics are encouraged by Tatum’s work ethic and basketball IQ – two things that should help him during the process.

Tatum’s intangible qualities have been well documented by his college coach, the legendary Mike Krzyzewski, as well as by his peers and his observers.

“When I talked to coach (Krzyzewski) he was very complimentary,” said Stevens. “Everything that he said validated what I’d already heard (about Tatum). Pags (a Duke alumnus) has been around the Duke program quite a bit, and Danny texted me throughout the year from Jayson’s games, so we’re really thrilled to have him.

“One of the things he fits with is not only the way we want to play, but also who we want to be, and I think that’s really important. Here’s a guy that is very good, but he’s committed to being better, and I think at 19 you better be that way in this league.”

Commitment will be vital for Tatum over the next few months, because the team that he’ll be joining in the fall is stocked deep with experienced talent. He will have to fight for minutes during his rookie season, which is unusual for a top-3 draft pick; however, he says he wouldn’t have it any other way.

“I look at it as a great opportunity,” said Tatum. “[This is] a team that was No. 1 in the East last season and has so many great guys and veterans. As a rookie I can come in and be ready to work and learn from all the great guys in the locker room.”

As long as he maintains that mindset, Tatum should fit right in with the rest of the Celtics once training camp rolls along.

In the meantime, the rook has some work to do in order to prepare himself for the NBA grind. It all begins later this week when he joins the Summer League C’s at the opening of mini-camp. There, he'll get to display the on-court abilities that we're all anxiously waiting to see, all while testing his work ethic for the first time at a professional level.