Celtics Preseason

Why Jayson Tatum was ‘shocked' by Bucks' surprise trade for Lillard

Tatum's back-channel talks apparently didn't tip him off to Lillard's dark-horse suitor.

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Jayson Tatum was just like the rest of us last Wednesday.

The Celtics star was keeping tabs on Damian Lillard's situation in Portland and reportedly even called the Trail Blazers star earlier in the offseason to try to pitch him on coming to Boston. But despite his back-channel conversations with the All-Star guard, Tatum had no idea the Milwaukee Bucks would acquire him in a three-team trade on Sept. 27.

"I was surprised," Tatum told Bleacher Report's Chris Haynes. "You saw the Dame trade talks all summer, and I never saw Milwaukee in that conversation. I never heard about them [being interested]. So, opening up my phone and seeing that definitely shocked me."

The Bucks indeed kept their interest in Lillard very quiet, with the Miami Heat viewed as the clear favorites to land the 33-year-old guard. But Milwaukee swooped in with a better offer, sending Jrue Holiday and a pair of first-round pick swaps to Portland and Grayson Allen to the Phoenix Suns as part of a massive three-team deal.

While the Bucks will miss Holiday, they now have one of the NBA's best 1-2 combos in Giannis Antetokounmpo and Lillard and are a clear title favorite.

"They're going to have a hell of a team. There's no way around that," Tatum said. "They have two of the best players in this league at two of those prime-time positions. They're going to be tough, but it's gonna be fun."

The silver lining for the Celtics was the availability of Holiday, whom Portland was looking to flip after the Lillard deal. C's president of basketball operations Brad Stevens pounced at the opportunity, sending Malcolm Brogdon, Robert Williams and two first-round picks to the Blazers in return for the two-time All-Star guard.

Holiday has made an excellent first impression in Boston -- especially on Tatum, who won a gold medal with the veteran guard as USA Basketball teammates at the 2020 Summer Olympics.

"I'm extremely happy to have him," Tatum told Haynes. "Jrue's one of the most well-respected guys in this league. He's a champion. We won a gold medal together two summers ago. So, I know him pretty well and know he is a hell of a player, a hell of a teammate.

"I told him we're lucky to have him and we're going to try to get it done."

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