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Celtics rookie Jayson Tatum: Kobe Bryant used to be 'my favorite player'

SALT LAKE CITY -- After the second eyebrow-raising performance of his young NBA career, Boston Celtics rookie Jayson Tatum was being quizzed on his beyond-his-years post game when a reporter wondered if there were shades of Kobe Bryant in his play.

"Yeah, that's my favorite player," said the 19-year-old Tatum before catching himself.

There's tremendous excitement within the organization about Jayson Tatum's potential, especially given the early returns. AP Photo/Charles Krupa
"He was -- then I went to the Celtics."

Celtics fans prefer to compare Tatum's slow-motion style to Paul Pierce. He poured gasoline on those comparisons in his NBA debut Monday night when his pull-up jumper with 5.7 seconds remaining lifted Boston to a win over the Philadelphia 76ers.

Tatum followed up that 21-point effort by scoring a Boston-best 23 points in Wednesday's 81-70 loss to the San Antonio Spurs. Tatum connected on 10 of 18 shots, showcased an array of silky offensive moves and added 10 rebounds over 31 minutes.

Even as the Celtics celebrate the impending acquisition of free-agent prize Gordon Hayward, there's tremendous excitement within the organization about Tatum's potential, especially given the early returns.

"He's gonna be a pretty good player in this league for a long time," said Celtics summer league coach Jerome Allen. "As the days pass I think I'm beyond being surprised by what he's able to do on the floor from a number of different spots on the floor.

"At 19, his soul seems mature and older. His approach -- he doesn't get sped up. He's physical, he competes, he rebounds, he puts it on the floor, he passes, he scores from the post, midrange and long ball. You'd be hard-pressed to find another 19-year-old in this country that just has the demeanor that he has."

The soft-spoken Tatum has downplayed his early success and prefers to point to areas he needs to improve at. He admits the NBA game is faster, but his slow-and-in-control style has translated well in summer league. It calls to mind former Celtics coach Doc Rivers marveling at how Pierce became an elite scorer despite seemingly moving at a snail's pace on the floor.

A sign in the crowd at the University of Utah's Huntsman Center on Wednesday read, "Jayson Tatum is the real #1." The insinuation: Boston got the best player in the draft even after shuffling down from the top spot to No. 3 in a swap with the Philadelphia 76ers.

"He's amazing. I think he's a hell of a talent," said Celtics 2016 second-round pick Abdel Nader, the G League rookie of the year last season. "He'll be a great asset to the Boston Celtics this year."

Source: http://www.espn.com/nba/story/_/id/19845971/boston-celtics-rookie-tatum-says-kobe-bryant-was-favorite-player-went-celtics

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