After a stellar rookie campaign, some believe Celtics' Jayson Tatum saw a bit of a regression in his game last season.
Many expected the former Duke standout to take the step and elevate his play even further. While he did improve marginally last season, it wasn't near the level Celtics fans were hoping for.
One criticism Tatum faced last season was his decision to regularly pass up open 3-pointers in favor of contested midrange jumpers. Some even pointed to training sessions the 20-year-old had with former Lakers star Kobe Bryant prior to the season as the source of his regression.
Following the Celtics' 100-75 win over the Magic in the preseason on Friday, Tatum was asked about his midrange game. He even defended the training sessions with Bryant, though he wasn't asked about them.
“I’m still going to shoot the midrange,” Tatum said (via The Boston Globe). “I’ve seen all the people talking about the de-Kobeing. Kobe didn’t teach me anything bad. Everything we talked about and he showed me was great."
He also addressed his underwhelming performance last season, saying it wasn't Bryant's fault he regressed.
MORE: Celtics’ Enes Kanter on his criticism of Turkey: ‘How can I stay silent?’ | Zion Williamson wows with 26 points in Pelicans home debut | Nets' Kyrie Irving (face) won't play in second preseason game vs. Lakers
“Last year, with the jump I didn’t make that everybody expected, it was not (Bryant's) fault," Tatum said. "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 Kobe didn’t teach me bad habits. I didn’t say that.”
Tatum scored 15 points on 6 of 15 shooting in the Celtics' win over the Magic on Friday. Last season, the St. Louis native averaged 15.7 points, 6.0 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game for Boston.