Then there’s the threat of injury, which is especially significant to players on the verge of big contracts. According to a source, Boston Celtics’ forward Jayson Tatum, who is eligible for a max extension in the offseason, has expressed reluctance to play for that reason.
An early-March article on CelticsBlog laid out contract extension possibilities for Tatum. It’s a lock that the Celtics will offer Tatum a five-year maximum extension. The haggling points will be over a player option on the fifth season and pay structure. But, given Tatum’s emergence as an All-Star in his third season, and a possible All-NBA selection, it’s a guarantee Boston wants to lock him up for as long as possible.
It’s important to note that Tatum is under contract with the Celtics for the 2020-21 season. That season will be the fourth year for Tatum on his first round rookie scale contract. An extension would start with the 2021-22 season.
Tatum is part of a group of players, including Bam Adebayo of the Miami Heat, De’Aaron Fox of the Sacramento Kings, Kyle Kuzma of the Los Angeles Lakers and Donovan Mitchell of the Utah Jazz, who are in line for lucrative, and possibly max, extensions this coming offseason. Those players have reportedly asked the NBA and NBPA to consider how insurance policies could work, in an attempt to protect against injury in the restarted season.
The challenge with insurance policies is that they are often extremely expensive and can be hard to collect on. Barring a catastrophic and career-ending injury, it can be hard to prove that a player’s future earning were impacted by injury. Just this past offseason, Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson both signed maximum contracts when it was known they were unlikely to play during the 2019-20 season while recovering from major injuries.
Because of the difficulties with insurance policies, some NBA teams and agents are pushing for the NBA and NBPA to allow for special circumstances and allow players to sign extensions prior to the season’s restart:
Per a league source: Some are pushing the NBA/NBPA to allow players potentially in line for a max contract extension (Bam Adebayo, Donovan Mitchell, Jayson Tatum, etc.) to sign that deal prior to the resumption of this current season vs having to wait for the offseason.— Keith Smith (@KeithSmithNBA) June 17, 2020
At this point, it’s unknown what will be agreed to, as far as insurance policies or a tweaking of the rules.
For Tatum’s part, he hasn’t said anything publicly about his status. In an interview with Adam Himmelsbach of the Boston Globe, Celtics assistant coach Jay Larranaga said Tatum is in mid-season form. Larranaga raved about Tatum’s consistency and said he has no doubts he’ll be ready when the season restarts. By all accounts, Tatum has been a regular at Boston’s practice facility since it reopened in early-June.
UPDATE: Per NBC Boston’s A. Sherrod Blakely, Tatum is not considering skipping the potential return of the 2019-2020 season:
“Not true,” a source told NBC Sports Boston. “He’s concerned like every other player about returning to play. There’s a lot … going on in the world that players need to be more concerned about. But sitting out because of the contract? Hell no!”
According to another source, Tatum’s concern with the NBA’s bubble plan is more focused on COVID-19 safety measures.