Even though Jayson Tatum is still just 21 years old and entering his third NBA season, only Marcus Smart and Jaylen Brown on the current roster have been Celtics for longer. And with Kyrie Irving and Al Horford gone, among others, Tatum seems to be embracing his position with new confidence.
“I don’t want to say that it’s too different, but I see a different way, a different assertiveness in the right things,” coach Brad Stevens said. “He’s practiced really hard, made a conscious effort to take the right shots and not be any less aggressive. He’s still really aggressive. And he’s defended, really defended.”
Tatum said he gained confidence playing for Team USA in the FIBA World Cup over the summer, even though his participation in the main tournament was derailed by an ankle injury after just two games. He said that the time spent with Team USA coach Gregg Popovich was invaluable.
“The thing that I talked about with Pop a lot was being able to dominate and have an impact on the game without scoring,” Tatum said. “Everybody has off nights, but how can you still find a way to be super dominant and affect the game in a positive way? Just making quick decisions, playing faster, getting to the basket more. Not trying to settle.”
Tatum has said that on offense this season he will be focused on 3-pointers, layups, and free throws — the three areas of highest efficiency. Last season, he frequently passed up open looks from beyond the arc to take challenged midrange jumpers.
In the Celtics’ preseason opener Sunday against the Hornets, it was notable that eight of Tatum’s 14 shots were 3-pointers. He made three of them and finished with 20 points in just 23 minutes.
“In practice and all through the game he’s been active,” Stevens said. “He’s made nice strides. I thought the US stuff would benefit all those guys, but you can really see it in him.”
Bumps and bruises
Center Robert Williams missed practice Tuesday after injuring his groin in a workout earlier in the day. He was scheduled to undergo an MRI. Stevens said the injury is not believed to be serious, and that Williams was not running at full speed when it occurred.
Rookie Romeo Langford took part in his first full practice of training camp after being limited last week with a minor groin strain.
“I thought he did a lot of good things,” Stevens said. “It was encouraging. In some ways, maybe it’s good to watch for five days and get your feet wet that way.”
Forward Gordon Hayward, who left Sunday’s game with a sore left elbow, practiced wearing an arm sleeve.
“I think I just fell on it,” Hayward said. “I couldn’t remember exactly when it happened. We took a look at the film, there was kind of one play, it kind of bruised up pretty badly. But it’ll be all right.”
Hayward said he did not need an MRI.
Lastly, center Daniel Theis, who missed Sunday’s game because of an abductor injury, practiced fully.
On the panel
Celtics director of player development Allison Feaster will take part in a panel discussion on women in sports, leadership, and empowerment at Harvard Business School Oct. 29. Feaster graduated from Harvard in 1998 and went on to have a lengthy career in the WNBA. She was hired by the Celtics in September in a newly created role . . . The Celtics departed Tuesday for a kind of Florida minicamp. They will spend four days in Orlando, concluding with Friday’s preseason game against the Magic.