SPRINGFIELD — It was his first time to a Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame induction ceremony, yet the Celtics’ Jayson Tatum is not quite prepared to use the moment as motivation.
The four-time All-Star and two-time first-team All-NBA selection is on a Hall of Fame trajectory but he has yet to approach his prime. Tatum was a surprise guest of inductee Dwyane Wade and sat front and center during an emotional night where Wade and San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich captivated the audience with touching speeches.
Popovich, speaking without a prepared speech or teleprompter, delighted the crowd for 25 minutes with jokes, stories, and tributes. Wade capped his portion with an impassioned acknowledgment of his father, Dwyane Sr., who joined him on the Symphony Hall stage as Wade said, “We in the Hall of Fame dawg!”
Tatum was one of the few current players who attended the ceremony, sitting a few feet from Carmelo Anthony and behind Warriors guard Chris Paul.
“I wasn’t even thinking about that,” Tatum said when asked about motivation. “I ain’t in no rush to retire. Obviously it would be an amazing accomplishment. I just wanted to come and show love and support. D-Wade invited me, and I was here for him, and I respect everybody who’s here.”
Popovich and Wade were inducted alongside Dirk Nowitzki, Tony Parker, Pau Gasol, the late Jim Valvano, former WNBA All-Star and current coach Becky Hammon, and former Purdue coach Gene Keady.
Tatum has not publicly commented on the Celtics’ plethora of offseason changes and wanted to be careful with his words, but he did touch on the revamped team.
“Yeah, I am [excited],” he said. “New year, I’m always excited for the new season. It’s like a brand new opportunity. I’m excited to see what we can do and we got a couple months until we start, so I’m still going to enjoy my summer a little bit but it’s almost that time.”
Tatum expressed his support for teammate Jaylen Brown, who signed a five-year, $304 million maximum contract extension last month. Brown and Tatum are entering their seventh season as teammates.
“Much deserved, it was a no-brainer,” Tatum told the Globe. “So I’m happy for him and his family. It’s life changing. It’s a big deal. I’m happy we’re going to have him for however much longer we’ve got him for. I’m happy about that.”
Tatum will be eligible for a five-year contract extension next summer worth more than $300 million, a deal that is considered a formality considering he is the team’s franchise cornerstone.
“Nah, I don’t think about nothing of that,” he said. “It’s one day at a time.”