The past few weeks have been a whirlwind for Celtics rookie Jayson Tatum, as the 19-year-old prepares to begin his first NBA season. Now, with Tuesday’s season-opener against the Cavaliers looming, the reality is hitting him that his debut will come on the road versus LeBron James.
“I used to watch LeBron on TV growing up, and now I’m playing my first game against him,” Tatum said. “It’s a lot.”
Tatum said he has envisioned what it will be like to defend James. After Saturday’s practice he was asked what those daydreams look like to him.
“It went good in my head,” he said, smiling. “In my head.”
Tatum, the No. 3 overall pick in last June’s draft, averaged 8.3 points and 4.3 rebounds per game during the preseason.
“I’m getting anxious, excited to get the regular season started,” he said. “We’ve been working really hard, and preseason went well.”
Five of the 14 players on the Celtics’ roster, including Tatum, have never played in an NBA game. Head coach Brad Stevens understands there will be jitters, but he thinks they can be minimized by thorough preparation.
“I don’t know if there’s anything that will prepare you for it until you’re in it,” Stevens said. “Our deal is to try to prepare for what we’re trying to accomplish on both ends of the floor. How do we want to play on both ends of the floor? What are our responsibilities on both ends of the floor? And try to build those into habits so that when those lights come on, it’s something you’re doing almost unconsciously.”
Baynes back at practice
Celtics center Aron Baynes, who had been sidelined since hyperextending his left knee in a preseason win against the 76ers last Monday, took part in a full practice on Saturday afternoon. Baynes said he expects to be ready to play in Boston’s season-opener in Cleveland on Tuesday.
“It’s not so much hesitation, just a little bit slower than the other leg right now,” Baynes said. “But today being out there and going live should get me back on track.”
Baynes suffered the injury in the second quarter of Monday’s game. He said his eye was scratched about a minute before he got hurt, blurring his vision so he did not have a clear view of teammate Guerschon Yabusele and a Philadelphia player coming toward him.
“[Yabusele] kind of came through me a bit with one of his defenders, so they hit my leg front-on and just hyperextended it a little bit,” Bayne said. “So I felt the full force of Guerschon on that play, but it was all good. If I hadn’t been hit in the eye I would have been able to step out of the way. I would have seen it coming. All good.”
In three preseason games Baynes averaged 8 points and 4.3 rebounds while shooting 53.3 percent from the field.
“I think after the first day [he was injured], we’re obviously fearful and cautious of what had happened,” Stevens said. “He’s felt better and better every day and probably exceeded our expectations, because he practiced full today. We’ll see how he feels tomorrow.”
Ex-Wizard Ochefu signs
The Celtics signed big man Daniel Ochefu, who was waived by the Wizards last week. Ochefu, who averaged 1.3 points and 1.2 rebounds in 19 games with Washington last season. is expected to be waived by Boston, too, allowing him to join the team’s G-League affiliate, the Maine Red Claws.
He took part in Saturday’s practice and was grateful for the opportunity, however brief it might be.
“It’s amazing,” he said. “Just coming in here and seeing the banners, knowing the history, knowing I played 11 games here against the Celtics last year including seven in the playoffs. It’s crazy and a big deal for me and my family.”