‘He knows he can dominate people’: Gregg Popovich praised Jayson Tatum following Team USA practice

"He’s much different going into this situation than before."

Jayson Tatum
LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - JULY 06: Jayson Tatum #10 of the 2021 USA Basketball Men's National Team practices at the Mendenhall Center at UNLV as the team gets ready for the Tokyo Olympics on July 6, 2021 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images) Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

As Jayson Tatum prepares to help Team USA in the upcoming Tokyo Olympics, he’s getting another opportunity to work with an NBA coaching legend.

And Gregg Popovich, who will coach the U.S. men’s team in the Olympics, had high praise for the 23-year-old following a recent practice. Having coached Tatum at the 2019 FIBA World Cup, Popovich noted the Celtics’ star’s development.

“During that camp [in 2019] and from that time to now, under Brad’s tutelage, he’s become more of a two-way player,” Popovich told reporters on Tuesday. “He’s way more confident, he’s developed more skills, he’s, on top of that, more aggressive and he knows he can dominate people. He’s much different going into this situation than before.”


The U.S. team’s run in 2019 ended on a down note, as the Americans finished a distant seventh. Popovich confessed to being “hugely disappointed” when Tatum suffered an injury that left him sidilined during the knockout round.

“He was going to be our go-to guy and he was just finding his legs, so to speak,” said Popovich. “Not totally confident, not realizing maybe how good he could be at both ends of the floor.”

Yet as Tatum prepares for his next international tournament, he will not only have a chance to show his growth, but do so in front of his new coach.

Popovich said he was “thrilled” for former Spurs assistant Ime Udoka on landing the Celtics’ head coaching role.

“You know exactly what you’re getting,” Popovich said of Udoka. “I’m sure that’s what Brad Stevens felt when he interviewed [Udoka] for the first time.”


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