Celtics

Here’s what Jayson Tatum said about Celtics coach Ime Udoka defending him

"He didn’t have too much luck."

Jayson Tatum
Jayson Tatum got some reps working with his new coach Ime Udoka last week. Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Ime Udoka was known as a defender during his NBA career, but even in his prime, Udoka might have had trouble covering Celtics star Jayson Tatum.

Still, Udoka gamely helped Tatum through a workout at a recent Team USA practice — an interaction that caught the attention of Celtics fans when it hit Twitter.

In a media availability on Thursday morning, Tatum was asked about being guarded by Udoka.

“He was trying to guard me,” Tatum said. “He didn’t have too much luck. We were just getting some extra work in after practice. He put me through some drills, getting some extra shots up.”

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Tatum’s relationship with his new coach — which was forged at Team USA in 2019 when Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart, and then-Celtic Kemba Walker were all on the FIBA World Cup team — reportedly was one of many reasons the Celtics were interested in hiring Udoka.

At his introductory press conference, Udoka praised both Tatum and Brown profusely.

“What I keep going back to is the talent,” Udoka said. “When you have two young pillars at that age, the sky is the limit. That’s what it starts with. You’re only as good as your players, and where you push them to get to.”

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On Thursday, Tatum was also asked about Bradley Beal, who entered quarantine for COVID-19 and will miss the Tokyo Olympics. Beal and Tatum grew up together in St. Louis and are close friends.

“First and foremost, I’m concerned with his health and make sure he’s doing alright,” Tatum said. “No major problems or anything like that. I was upset. This was going to be a great opportunity for both of us being able to team up at the Olympics. Unfortunately, it’s not going to be able to happen but looking forward to competing out here and winning a gold medal and making sure we have an extra one for him.”

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