Jayson Tatum and the Boston Celtics are set to begin another season as not only Eastern Conference favorites, but also one of the most popular picks to win the NBA championship.
The lofty expectations for the C's only grew after they acquired big man Kristaps Porzingis and veteran guard Jrue Holiday. While those moves required parting ways with Marcus Smart, Robert Williams, and Malcolm Brogdon, they've led to some declaring that Boston has the best top-six and possibly even the best roster in the NBA entering the 2023-24 campaign.
Tatum, fresh off an offseason spent working out with Celtics legend Paul Pierce, is ready to live up to the hype. The four-time All-Star addressed those heightened expectations for the team, the Porzingis and Holiday trades, his offseason workouts with Pierce, and much more in an exclusive 1-on-1 interview with our Celtics insider Chris Forsberg.
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Here were the highlights:
Offseason workouts with Paul Pierce
"I go to L.A. every summer to train with (NBA skills coach) Drew (Hanlen), and Sam Cassell is my new position coach, so Sam came out there for a few days and he just brought Paul to the gym one day, and they came like three or four days in a row," Tatum said. "Sam went back to Boston and Paul just was like, 'When are you working out again?'
"So Paul would come to the weight room and he would work out with me and (Tatum's trainer) Nick, and then he would get in the car and follow us to the gym, and he would just watch me work out. That was for like, three or four weeks. I saw Paul every single day and it was cool to have him around. It was cool to work out with him.
"Paul was motivated. I think he lost like, 15 or 20 pounds. You could tell he kind of felt younger being around myself and a few of my friends. It was kind of like he was just one of the guys, and it was an honor to have him around and listen to him talk and tell stories. So, it was cool for me to spend that much time with him. Celtics legend, NBA legend, and a guy that I have a lot of respect for."
Biggest takeaways from time spent with Pierce
"His experiences, especially in that '08 season," Tatum said. "The ups and downs, the things that they did as a unit, as a group. How they empowered everybody because at some point throughout the season, you're going to need each and every person to help win a game.
"It was cool to hear him talk about especially that '08 team and how much fun that was, and the battles and the arguments and the good times that they had. So just hearing those stories was cool."
Trading Malcolm Brogdon, Robert Williams for Jrue Holiday
"I mean, you're excited, right? Jrue is one of the most respected guys in the league. Somebody that was on the USA team, won a gold medal," Tatum said. "I know him pretty well. So, extremely excited and happy to have him. Obviously, one of the best two-way guys that the league has seen.
"it was also tough losing Malcolm (Brogdon), somebody that helped us a lot last year and you grew to have a relationship with. And especially Rob (Williams). I spent five years with Rob and he was a big part of the success that we had since I've been here. Somebody that I grew to be really close with. That's the tough part about these trades that sometimes your friends that you spend a lot of time with get shipped off to another team."
Thoughts on Jrue Holiday as a player
"He's an elite competitor, big guard, obviously a great defender, and puts pressure on the defense," Tatum said. "He's an elite shooter, he can post up, he puts it in transition. Selfless guy, it's all about winning. And just somebody that you would love to have on your team."
How Jrue Holiday's championship experience will help
"Absolutely. He did it recently. He knows what it takes," Tatum said. "He's been on a championship team. They faced adversity. They were down 0-2 and they still figured out a way to win. So there's a lot that I'm certain I can and will learn from Jrue and his experiences on that championship team."
The addition of Kristaps Porzingis
"He's extremely tall. It just adds another layer of versatility," Tatum said. "He can stretch of floor. He can really, really shoot the ball. Now, we really have a low-post presence that we haven't had to that magnitude really since I've been here. And obviously, elite shot blocker. Can protect the rim. So we have a lot of length on the floor now.
How's Tatum's wrist?
"I feel fine," Tatum said. "Body feels great. Going into training camp feeling healthy and feeling ready."
Did Tatum consider wrist surgery?
"Yeah, thought about it," Tatum said. "It just wasn't a common surgery to get, so it wasn't certain how it'd maybe affect me long term. So, got second third, and fourth opinions. Took the right measures and things like that this offseason, so feel fine."
What's Joe Mazzulla like behind the scenes?
"Joe is a funny guy. He has a great sense of humor," Tatum said. "He's always laughing, always joking. He's a fun person to be around. Yeah, normal guy."
Heightened expectations for the 2023-24 season
"People expect us to win. People expect us to get to the championship," Tatum said. "And when we don't, we didn't meet the expectations. We're a really good team, we have really good players, and that's how it should be."
You can watch Forsberg's full 1-on-1 with Tatum in the video player above and on YouTube below.