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Jayson Tatum talks All-NBA snub, Ime Udoka, and Team USA

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Tatum appeared on Kicks Beyond the Press podcast for an exclusive interview.

Boston Celtics v Minnesota Timberwolves Photo by David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images

The world of Boston Celtics news is moving at a faster pace than you would expect for a team out of the playoffs and no first round draft selection. From the trade of Kemba Walker to the hiring of Ime Udoka, it’s been a busy two weeks for the organization.

Despite the high-paced nature of Brad Stevens early tenure as President of Basketball Operations, we’ve heard little from the players, who it’s safe to assume are sunning themselves on a distant beach somewhere (or meeting President Barack Obama). That all changed on Monday afternoon, when Kicks released an exclusive interview with Celtics All-Star Jayson Tatum.

A few weeks ago, Jayson Tatum missed out on an All-NBA selection which stands to cost the 23-year-old roughly $33 million.

When asked about missing out on an All-NBA team and the financial hit that comes with it, Tatum took a deep breath, smiled, and gave a well thought out answer to the tricky question.

“Oh, for sure, I know I should have made it, just with the season I had. I mean, $33 million on the line, that will make anybody feel some type of way.” Tatum went on to explain, “I just felt like the way I was playing and everything I did, I thought it should have been a no-brainer.”

Tatum went on to discuss if the voting process should be changed for awards such as All-NBA. “It’s kind of opinion-based, with one hundred media members get the vote and what’s the criteria? Is there a certain amount of games you need to play? Should your team be in contention?”

Another topic Tatum discussed during the interview was the Celtics recent hiring of Ime Udoka as their new head coach. “We’re excited to have Ime. A couple of us spent some time with him at USA Basketball in 2019, so there’s some familiarity there with him. And it’s kind of a fresh start.”

Despite Team USA falling short at the 2019 FIBA World Cup, there seems to be an optimism around the players and fans, which was further buoyed by Udoka’s comments on his coaching style and what he has planned for Tatum and young All-Star teammate Jaylen Brown.

However, it may be best to finally drop the “young” label from discussions involving Tatum moving forwards. When asked about being one of “the league’s best young stars” along with players such as the Utah Jazz’s Donovan Mitchell, Tatum quickly responded with, “I don’t think myself and some of the other young guys like being looked at as ‘some of the best young players’ - I think I just like being one of the best players.”

Since entering the league, Tatum has consistently been referred to as one of the NBA’s best young players, something which he may believe he’s surpassed. After all, Tatum has seen players such as Zion Williamson and Luka Doncic enter the league after him, so perhaps he’s right to view himself as a veteran at this point in his career.

And in true off-season fashion, there was a question posed to Tatum about which player besides himself would he trust to take a game-winning shot when the pressure’s on. “Well, I’ve played with Kyrie (Irving) and have seen him make some tough shots.” When pressed for any other players, it was inevitable that Tatum would answer with “I think Dame (Damian Lillard), yeah either Dame or Kyrie.”

Lillard is currently subject to intense media speculation, with some reports stating the All-Star guard is leaning towards asking for trade. With Tatum naming him as one of the players he would trust most in a game-winning situation, and the pair about to embark on Team USA’s Olympics journey, speculation about a Lillard-to-Boston trade could continue to intensify.

The interview with Kicks runs for 30 minutes, with Tatum also talking about parenting, music, and why Tacko Fall is the funniest teammate on the Celtics roster. And in case you were wondering, Tatum’s top five rappers were Jay-Z, Drake, Lil Wayne, Rick Ross, and Nelly.