NBA basketball is officially on hiatus in Beantown, with the Boston Celtics left to watch as the NBA Playoffs continue. However, there looks to be some balling left to do this summer for at least one of the team’s young stars.
Specifically, Jayson Tatum, who was one of the best players in the Association down the stretch.
The re-scheduled 2020 Olympic Games are slated to begin next month in Tokyo. As such, USA Basketball will seek to defend its status as the reigning gold-medal winner in FIBA’s quadrennial hoops tournament. At the 2016 games in Rio de Janeiro, the Americans routed Serbia in the gold-medal final after narrowly escaping Spain in the semifinals.
It’s a performance that head coach Gregg Popovich would like to repeat, and Tatum could be a major part of the effort.
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Haynes: USA Basketball Gets Tatum’s Commitment
On Tuesday, Yahoo’s Chris Haynes reported that Tatum has committed to joining the Olympic team. Meanwhile, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported that there is “optimism” that Popovich will get a commitment to play from Washington Wizards star Bradley Beal as well.
Given the slog that was the 2020-21 NBA season, the rash of injuries that have occurred throughout it and the lingering COVID-19 pandemic, getting commitments from players of their ilk is a huge win for Coach Pop.
During the 2016 Olympics, Team USA was forced to play without most of its key cogs as concerns over the Zika virus kept multiple star players from joining the squad. In the end, the US still prevailed, but the days of America sleepwalking to the top spot on the podium are long over.
So, any big commitment that Popovich can get will be important. And few will be bigger than landing Tatum. The Celtics forward is fresh off a career year for his squad. In 64 games this season, Tatum averaged 26.4 points, 7.4 rebounds and 4.3 assists per contest, while knocking down 38.6% of his three-point shots.
He was especially great over the last several weeks of the season. From April 9 through the end of Boston’s playoff run, he scored 38 or more points on six occasions, including games of 50, 53 and 60.
Tatum Has Unfinished Business With Team USA
Tatum previously suited up for his country during the 2019 FIBA World Cup in China. He was joined on the squad by three other Celtics — Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart and Kemba Walker. However, it wasn’t the best of experiences for the Beantown quartet.
After going 5-0 during group play, Team USA went on to lose its quarterfinal bout with France, 89-79. As a result, the team was kept off the podium entirely after entering the tournament as one of the favorites. Things would get even worse when the Americans also dropped their subsequent classification game to Serbia.
Consequently, an American team filled with NBA stars finished its World Cup run in seventh place.
Along the way, Tatum was limited to just two appearances due to an ankle sprain, averaging 24.5 points and 7.5 rebounds per game while making just 31.8% of his shot attempts.
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