In late June, Celtics forward Jayson Tatum went to Paris along with several other Jordan Brand clients, including the free agent point guard Kemba Walker. Walker, who agreed to sign with the Celtics about a week later, said last month that his conversations with Tatum helped sway him. And on Thursday evening, Tatum reiterated that he thought he had made an impact on the All-Star free agent.
“I’m very excited,” Tatum said, standing in a quiet room in the back of Abercrombie & Fitch at Faneuil Hall before an event to unveil his signature cologne. “I think I had a big part with him coming here. I was with him in Paris. I never told him to come, but I told him I would love for him to join the team and told him how it was. Obviously, everybody has to do what’s best for themselves, and I’m happy for him.
“I just told him about Boston, the city, the atmosphere, our fans, the culture, the coaching staff. I answered all the questions he had.”
Tatum said he thinks Walker will be a good fit on this Boston team, and that he has a “great personality.”
“I’m excited and just ready for the season to start and everybody to be around each other and build some chemistry and just get it going,” he said.
Walker’s signing, of course, was only made possible when the All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving decided to leave the Celtics and join the Nets. Tatum and Irving, who both went to Duke, became good friends and have even vacationed together.
Tatum acknowledged that he did not want to see Irving leave.
“But I’m all for guys doing what’s best for them,” he said. “It doesn’t change the dynamic of our friendship.”
Tatum added: “We still keep in touch. That’s like family. We talk often. Nothing in particular, nothing specific about last season, just friend talk.”
The departures of players like Irving and Al Horford seem to have created an opening for Tatum to ascend to stardom as he enters his third season. On Thursday night, fans lined three city blocks waiting in line to meet him.
“I’m really looking to take a bigger jump,” Tatum said. “Be more vocal, be more of a leader. Just be a better version of myself.”
The 29-year-old Walker, a three-time All-Star, will be a major asset for the Celtics. But the widespread belief around the NBA is that for Boston to emerge as a contender in the Eastern Conference, Tatum will need to become a true star.
“I mean, it’s good when people say good things about you,” Tatum said. “I don’t really pay too much attention. I don’t really try to say it’s my team or it’s somebody else’s team. We all play for the Celtics. We all are trying to accomplish things and winning a championship, so I don’t need to say it is my team, or somebody else’s team. That’s not really my thing.”
Tatum played on three Team USA squads when he was in high school and is excited about the opportunity to represent his country as a pro for the first time. He and Walker had been slotted for some time to take part in training camp as the team prepares for next month’s World Cup in China.
As several other stars decided not to take part, Celtics Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart were added to the camp lineup, as a group of about 20 players will ultimately vie for 12 spots on the final roster.
“I think that’s pretty cool,” Tatum said. “I know a lot of people dropped out and I feel like everything happens for a reason, so hopefully we all four make it and start some early chemistry for the season.”
The team will hold training camp in Las Vegas and Los Angeles beginning next week, and then the roster will be whittled down before training continues in Australia.
“It’s an honor to play for the country and to be along other great players,” Tatum said. “That’s what I’m most excited for, being around other guys and competing in practice and coming together for a greater purpose.”
Tatum said he completed a workout at the Auerbach Center on Thursday morning that included several of the team’s rookies as well as veteran forward Gordon Hayward.
He said he’s excited about playing with the young players, and he confirmed president of basketball operations Danny Ainge’s recent assertions that Hayward is having a big summer as he looks to regain his All-Star form.
“He’s been working really hard,” Tatum said. “He’s been in Boston most of the summer, I think. He’s been grinding.”