Tatum, realizing “everything is not promised,” enjoying Olympic journey

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Jayson Tatum still hasn’t quite gotten used to it.

He wakes up at all hours of the night, because his body’s still adjusting to the time zone. He’s trying to not randomly fall asleep throughout the day. It’ll take a couple days.

But through preparations and the adjustment period of travelling to Tokyo to compete alongside the rest of Team USA men’s basketball in the Olympics, the Boston Celtics star said he’s learned to not take things for granted – that with the hardships of the past year, he’s relishing the moment.

“Just staying in the moment and really enjoying this journey, this process of, you know, being 23 and being in the Olympics,” Tatum told media at a Team USA practice July 22. “It’s an honor and it’s really a dream come true.”

Tatum spoke on a number of topics within the interview session, including playing against his former Celtics teammates on France’s team and how he’s feeling months removed from a positive COVID-19 diagnosis. Read more below.

On the Celtics' new head coach

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After Brad Stevens stepped into the role of president of basketball operations for the Celtics, former Brooklyn Nets assistant Ime Udoka was tabbed in late June as Boston's new head coach. Udoka is also on Team USA's coaching staff, and the one-time Spurs forward has been getting some work in by guarding Tatum during practices. Well, kind of. "He was trying to guard me," Tatum said. "He didn't have too much luck." https://twitter.com/celtics/status/1416405042828038147?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw%7Ctwcamp%5Etweetembed%7Ctwterm%5E1416405042828038147%7Ctwgr%5E%7Ctwcon%5Es1_&ref_url=https%3A%2F%2Fboston.cbslocal.com%2F2021%2F07%2F22%2Fjayson-tatum-ime-udoka-pokes-fun-celtics-nba%2F Joking aside, Tatum seems to be enjoying the time spent with Udoka. The All-NBA forward didn't offer many specifics on any plans the new hire has for the Celtics, but said Udoka was excited at the opportunity.

On playing against Team France

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Tatum might have a few familiar hands in his face when he takes the court against Team France on Sunday. Last season's teammate Evan Fournier is one of the headliners of France's squad. Also in the frontcourt is Guerschon Yabusele, who played with Tatum in 2017-18 and 18-19, and Vincent Poirier, who spent one season with the Celtics in 2019-20. They might shake hands before the game starts, as Tatum said he hasn't seen them in awhile. But he doesn't plan on taking it easy on them. "I guess I’ll be happy to see them Sunday, but won’t be any friends out there when the game start," Tatum said.

On Bradley Beal missing the Olympics

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A week ago, Washington Wizards guard Bradley Beal, who was making his first Team USA appearance, was ruled out of the Olympics after being placed in coronavirus health and safety protocols. It was a devastating blow, both to the team and to Beal. It had long been a dream of the high-scoring guard's to play Olympic basketball. "I'm dying for (Beal)," head coach Gregg Popovich said. "We all are." Tatum, too, expressed sympathy for the star guard. "I was upset," Tatum said. "But looking forward to competing out here and winning a gold medal, and making sure we have an extra one for him.”

On COVID-19 recovery

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Tatum contracted COVID-19 in January, and has been vocal about the virus's extended effects. In May, he told ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski on the analyst's podcast that he didn't "feel or breathe the same" as before the illness. "There's a difference in how my breathing is before I had the virus to now," Tatum said. "I know I still go out there and perform, but I do tell people that ... I just feel different. I just breathe a little different now than before I had the virus." A couple of months later, that issue appears to be in the rearview mirror in time for the Olympics, good news for his conditioning moving forward. "I’ve gained a lot of progress - I think I feel back to normal, since I guess before I tested positive way back in December, January," Tatum said. This post originally appeared on Celtics Wire. Follow us on Facebook!

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