Boston Celtics legend Paul Pierce sees a great deal of himself in rookie Jayson Tatum, and feels the Duke product is already well ahead of schedule compared to where he was with his own game upon entering the league back in 1998.

“He looks like an older version of me, when I started doing the step-back and stuff,” said Pierce to CSN’s A. Sherrod Blakely. “When I’m watching him, he looks like a mature version of my game, like sixth, seventh, eighth year. He sees the defense. He knows what’s going to happen before it happens. He understands his position, footwork, his step-back (jumper) is there. His offensive repertoire seems complete. The sky is the limit for that kid.”

Pure talent can only take a player so far, as far as Pierce is concerned. Desire to be the best player possible and willingness to maintain that inner fire also comes into play.

“The thing I see, what makes the guy special, there’s a lot of talent in the league. There’s no question about it,” Pierce said. “Your mentality, your drive, how great you want to be, that’s what separates the good from the great ones. You look at guys from the past, like Kobe (Bryant’s) determination, his competitive spirit. You see guys that were just as talented, they didn’t have the same competitive spirit so they could not reach the levels of other greats.”

Tatum proved an invaluable commodity for Boston during trade negotiations with the Cleveland Cavaliers, with management not willing to budge on adding him to a package that ultimately landed All-Star Kyrie Irving.

Both Pierce and Tatum crossed paths on the Celtics’ practice court Thursday:

An honor! The Truth!

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“I left one (banner) behind,” Pierce told Tatum. “You gotta fill that one up for me.”

While Pierce won’t be bringing the franchise anymore banners, he will have one raised in his honor on Feb. 11 when the Celtics officially retire his No. 34.