Jayson Tatum is excited to be a Celtic.
There’s obviously 195 million reasons to be excited after Tatum signed his designated rookie extension last week, but the 22-year-old is also embracing the scope of being The Man in Boston. When asked about how he approaches that responsibility, he humbly responded, “continue to grow.”
It’s hard to argue that Tatum hasn’t grown in his short time in Boston. After two seasons serving as a secondary scorer next to veteran players like Kyrie Irving and Al Horford, he exploded in Year 3. Tatum averaged a cool 23 points, 7 rebounds, and 3 assists in 2019-2020 and pushed his regular season production to superstar heights in the Orlando bubble. On the elevated stage of the playoffs, he carried the Celtics to the Eastern Conference Finals with a 26-10-5 line and proved to be one of the best two-way players in the league, but that won’t feed into Tatum’s ego.
“I don’t walk around saying that it’s my team. I don’t take that approach,” Tatum said. “Like everybody else, I show up, get to work, and do my job to the best of my abilities and just go out there and play. I don’t think I’ve got to go out there and say it. We all play for the Celtics. We all play a part in the team’s success.”
It’s that humble approach that fast tracked Tatum’s development. After a year spent falling in love with his mid-range game, Tatum doubled his attempts from behind the arc and drives to the rim. That focus made Tatum a more effective scorer and he’s not done yet. “I’m still extremely young. Every part of my game can get better,” Tatum hinted at what’s to come this year. “From an efficiency standpoint, continue to get stronger, extending my range, be more efficient shooting deeper, creating off the dribble, off the catch, finishing better through contact, and becoming even more of a defensive presence. I think that’s a big goal for me.”
Tatum will now try and build off his first All-Star Game nod and All-NBA season as the clear cut #1. Gordon Hayward is now in Charlotte and Kemba Walker will start the season on the shelf nursing a bad knee. The abbreviated NBA season will start without fans as COVID cases skyrocket across the country. And yet, the young star approaches it with enthusiasm.
“I love the game. I love to play. I’ve been playing ever since I was a kid. It’s my passion. I love everything about it,” Tatum said. “Especially during these tough times, if we can come together safely and play this game, millions of people can love and watch. It can be a source of entertainment and joy and inspiration. It’s special.”