Boston’s Jayson Tatum says Kobe not to blame for last season’s struggles

Kurt Helin
NBC Sports

After his impressive play as a rookie, particularly in the postseason, Celtics fans went into last season expecting to see Jayson Tatum make a big leap. Didn’t happen. He took a step back in efficiency and seemed to plateau in his development. In particular, Tatum was isolating more on offense and he was settling for long twos — 30.5 percent of his shots were from the midrange, and 16.9 were from 16 feet out to the arc. He shot 34.9 percent on those long twos.

It was a lot of inefficient offense. It was also the kinds of shots Kobe Bryant took (and in his prime made) for years, and Tatum had worked out with Kobe that summer. Which led to a segment of Boston fans blaming Kobe for Tatum’s struggles.

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Tatum shot that idea down, speaking to A. Sherrod Blakely of NBC Sports Boston.

“Everything he [Bryant] showed me was great,” Tatum said following Boston’s 100-75 preseason win over Orlando in which he had 15 points, five rebounds and three steals. “The jump that I didn’t make that everyone expected [last year], it was not his fault. He’s one of the greatest ever, so … everything he taught me I’m very grateful for and helped me…

“I have to take responsibility for how I played last year,” Tatum said.

There were plenty of reasons that the Celtics’ youth did not take a step forward last season, and one of them is now in Brooklyn. Tatum was overthinking the game last season, and it showed. Kobe makes a fun scapegoat, but this was never on him.

Tatum’s problems also may be a thing of the past.

Both with Team USA this summer and through a couple of exhibition games, Tatum has looked more aggressive — attacking the rim, getting to his spot on the floor, taking more threes, and just generally knocking down his chances. He’s cleaned up his shot selection.

We’ll see if that carries over to the season, but if it does Celtics fans may bet the leap they have been waiting for.

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