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Celtics’ Jayson Tatum defends Kobe Bryant amid criticisms of his 2018-19 performance

Jayson Tatum, Kobe Bryant, Celtics

Boston Celtics rising star Jayson Tatum is rebuffing the criticisms thrown at him and Kobe Bryant.

To recall, the 21-year-old forward had an offseason workout with Bryant in 2018, but he failed to take the next step in his development the following season as the Celtics struggled.

Now, in a recent story by Tim Bontemps of ESPN, it revealed that the Celtics are trying to “de-Kobe” Tatum. As Bontemps noted, the 21-year-old took some Bryant-like mid-range shots and fadeaways in isolation plays. However, the Duke product was ineffective and, in fact, ranked dead last when it comes to efficiency on direct isolations.

Speaking to reporters on Friday, Tatum insisted that he will keep shooting from the mid-range. He then emphasized that Kobe didn’t teach him “anything bad” and that everything he learned from the Los Angeles Lakers legend was “great.”

“I’m still going to shoot the mid-range. I’ve seen all the people talking about the de-Kobeing. Kobe didn’t teach me anything bad,” Tatum said, per Adam  Himmelsbach of The Boston Globe.

“Everything we talked about and he showed me was great. Last year, with the jump I didn’t make that everybody expected, it was not his fault. He’s one of the greatest ever, so everything he taught me was—I’m very grateful, and it helped me. I’ve got to take responsibility for how I played last year not being as big of a jump that people thought. But I’m still going to shoot mid-range.”

Tatum averaged 15.7 points, 6.0 rebounds and 2.1 assists for Boston in 2018-19. He also shot 45.0 percent from the field, 37.3 percent from 3-point line and 85.5 percent from the charity stripe.

Now that the Celtics are without Kyrie Irving, the team will need Tatum to make the big leap everybody expected last year. He figures to be one of the primary offensive options of Boston along with Kemba Walker.