That changed this week, as the two-time All-Star re-entered the spotlight in Las Vegas as he preps for the Tokyo Olympics as a member of Team USA. For the first time since the Brooklyn Nets booted his C’s from title contention, Tatum spoke with the members of the media, finally delving into the most notable move of the Celtics’ young offseason — the glaring change at the helm.
“I’m excited about our new coach, Ime [Udoka],” Tatum proclaimed. “I got to know him a little bit (at the 2019 World Cup). I think what stands out the most is, I guess when you’re coming up as an assistant and you get your first head coach job, you’re driven and motivated. And from the conversations I’ve had with him since he’s gotten the job, I can tell he’s just really, really excited.”
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Tatum: ‘We’re Gonna Try to Accomplish Something Big’
The Celtics capped off a drastic shift in power on June 28th when they named Udoka the 18th head coach in the history of their storied organization. The first-time head coach took over for Brad Stevens, who moved upstairs to replace the “pseudo” retired Danny Ainge as the team’s president of basketball operations.
“It was a lot at first with all the changes, especially with the coaches and front office,” Tatum admitted. “But change is good sometimes.”
Udoka has large shoes to fill, as Stevens’ eight-year run roaming the sidelines with Boston culminated in a 354-282 record (.557% win/loss percentage) and three trips to the Eastern Conference Finals. With that said, Tatum believes Udoka is up for the challenge and feels as if something special could be brewing in Beantown.
“It’s going to be fun, and we’re gonna try to accomplish something big,” said Tatum, which per the team’s official website refers to the Celtics “pursuing an NBA championship.”
Tatum ‘Excited’ for the Olympics
Tatum, 23, is not only the youngest member of Team USA, but he’s also the first Celtic to represent his country in the Olympics since legend Larry Bird did so way back in 1992.
“I’m excited to be here. This is a great opportunity,” Tatum claimed. “I think playing in the Olympics is something I always dreamed about. So I’m looking forward to it and just playing with a group of guys that you can go out and compete against. I think that’s what is the most fun part, just being on the same team with these guys.”
Not only will Tatum look to capture gold with the U.S. Olympic Men’s Basketball Team, but he’ll also be doing so while honoring his idol.
Tatum will be donning the No. 10 jersey with Team USA, the same number the late-great Kobe Bryant sported for USA Basketball’s Olympic title runs in 2008 and 2012.
“With this being the first Olympics since we lost him [Bryant], it holds that much more value,” Tatum said. “It’s not something I take lightly.”