Celtics

Jayson Tatum was ‘shocked’ by Celtics’ front office changes

Tatum is also looking forward to playing for Team USA at the Olympics.

Jayson Tatum was drafted by Danny Ainge. AP Photo/Charles Krupa

When it was announced that Brad Stevens would replace Danny Ainge as the Celtics’ president of basketball operations in June, it shocked several people in the basketball world.

It also shocked one of their star players. Jayson Tatum admitted to the Boston Globe’s Gary Washburn that he was “shocked” by Ainge’s retirement.

“It wasn’t like I saw it coming,” Tatum said. “I’m happy for him. Something that he and his family discussed, but he felt like it was best for him. It made sense and I still have a good relationship with him. I don’t think anything will change in that aspect. He did what he thought was best for himself and his family. Sometimes change can be good, so we’ll see.”

With Stevens, who coached Tatum for his first four years as a pro, now in the front office, Tatum will have some adjusting to do. He seems ready for it.

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“I’m just going to go with it,” Tatum said. “Obviously it’s a change going from my coach to being in the front office. Seeing him in a different lens. But it’s the business of basketball. It happened and you gotta keep going.”

One of Stevens’s first orders of business was to hire Ime Udoka to replace him as the next head coach of the Celtics. Earlier in July, Tatum gave his stamp of approval on the hire.

The Tatum-Udoka business relationship is getting a head start, with Tatum playing and Udoka coaching on the USA men’s national basketball team for the upcoming Olympic Games. The on-court results haven’t been great to start. Team USA’s gone 1-2 in exhibition games and two players have already dropped out.

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Tatum also missed Team USA’s previous exhibition game due to right knee soreness. The last time Tatum played for USA Basketball, he injured his ankle during the 2019 FIBA World Cup. Following the USA’s seventh-place finish and his early exit, Tatum’s looking forward at a chance for redemption.

“It’s really a dream come true,” Tatum said. “I just have to remind myself sometimes in practice when I look around, I got [Damian Lillard] bringing the ball up and running the floor with [Kevin Durant] and me on the same court. In the moment and enjoying it but still realizing it’s a really really cool experience.

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“Not being able to play [in 2019] and watching it was tough. Watching your teammates play out there and not being able to help. Kind of the reason I really wanted to play this time is to try to get that revenge.”

Team USA will play its final exhibition game on Sunday before heading to Japan. It’s unknown if Tatum will play on Sunday, but it will be the last time he’ll see his family until he returns home from the Olympics due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“That’s the toughest part, going to the Olympics for the first time and not being able to enjoy that experience with your family,” Tatum said. “That is the worst part about all of these. Moments like these you’re supposed to be able to share with the people you’re closest with.”

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The men’s basketball team begins group play on Sunday, July 25 against France.

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