Suffice to say, it’s already been a long season for the Celtics. After being eliminated in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals on September 27th, the team opened training camp for 2020-2021 in early December and started the season on the 23rd.
In the opener against the Milwaukee Bucks, Jayson Tatum hit this shot to win the game:
TATUM CLUTCH THREE pic.twitter.com/roSs3d92nT— NBA on TNT (@NBAonTNT) December 24, 2020
Since then, it hasn’t exactly been smooth sailing for Tatum and team. After starting the season 7-3 without Kemba Walker, the Celtics’ next three games would be postponed due to the league’s COVID-19 health and safety protocols. Tatum along with Carsen Edwards and Robert Williams tested positive for the coronavirus, Marcus Smart has missed the last fifteen games with a severe calf strain, and Boston limps into the final three games before the All-Star break 16-17 and 6th in the East.
For Tatum, who is still working through his bout with COVID-19, his follow-up to his first All-Star game selection and starring role in the playoffs has been tough.
“Everything is so different compared to what we’re used to travelling-wise. We went through a stretch where myself and other guys tested positive and we had to postpone a couple of games in a row and we played a handful of games with half our team gone,” Tatum said before facing Bradley Beal and the Washington Wizards on Sunday.
“It’s definitely been up and down. There’s been some things we’ve had to go through and really really adjust to, but that’s the entire league. Every team has gone through their fair share of ups and downs and just things everyone is trying to get accustomed to with this season.”
For Tatum, it’s more than just the unique circumstances of this compacted and shortened season. After signing a five-year, $195 million full designated rookie max extension, Tatum is now Boston’s best player and with that comes the slings and arrows of stardom and the weight of the franchise’s decorated history and Tatum has responded.
Despite a recent rough stretch, his season averages are up across the board with 25 points and 4.5 assists per game. He recently was named an All-Star starter after Brooklyn ruled out Kevin Durant through the All-Star Weekend in his second consecutive selection to the midsummer classic.
While the week off could serve as a much needed respite for the 22-year-old, he’ll head to Atlanta with teammate and first time All-Star, Jaylen Brown, and make the best of it. In addition to playing in the All-Star Game, Tatum is considering participating in either the Skills Challenge or the Three-Point Contest (but not both).
“I’m sure everyone needs a break and needs some rest, especially the teams that went deep in the bubble. (For me), starting the season relatively quick and then testing positive. I’m sure the few days for the All-Star break will do everyone some good. Until then, we’re just trying to win some games,” Tatum said.