Jayson Tatum has missed the Boston Celtics last four games due to the NBA’s health and safety protocols. However, the All-Star wing is set to make his return to the court on Wednesday, December 5, when his team takes on the San Antonio Spurs.
Tatum was cleared to play against the Orlando Magic on December 2 but opted to remain out so that he could focus on re-conditioning.
“He’s got a few practice sessions in. Last game, he was cleared to play out of COVID protocol but wanted to get the re-conditioning in. He’s had two, three extra sessions, and I think he’s looking good out here with what he’s doing so far.
And he’s the type of guy that wants to come back into his role and not be limited, something he’s stressed that he doesn’t love is a minute restriction and things like that. As long as his conditioning and wind is fine, he can get right back to playing at the level he was,” Ime Udoka told the media when asked about Tatum.
From a fan perspective, there was reason to be concerned for Tatum following how hard he was hit by COVID last season, which left the 23-year-old wing needing an inhaler before games. Udoka noted that Tatum’s symptoms were not as severe this time around, which could be good news for the Celtics about getting their star player back at close to full health.
“I don’t know if he had the same severity of symptoms that he did last time. It doesn’t sound like it. So, hopefully, that won’t bother him to the same extent. As far as minutes, he’s played quite a few this year – higher than we’d like at times. And I think we can settle him back into the rotation, not only coming out of COVID but also with the bodies that we have back and the full complement of players.”
Tatum is Looking Forward to Playing Against Greg Popovich
During the summer of 2021, Tatum was with Team USA at the Tokyo Olympics, where the Spurs head coach, Greg Popovich, helped guide the team to a gold medal. While most of the chatter during that time was about Tatum and Udoka bonding, it would seem the All-Star wing grew close to Popovich.
In a recent press conference, Tatum spoke about getting the opportunity to play against the Spurs head coach and how he’s looking forward to seeing him again.
“Playing against the Spurs and Pop again, thinking about the experience this summer and being with him two summers ago. Just how honored I am, being able to play for one of the greatest coaches of all time and having a really organic relationship with him. To accomplish what we did for the first time, for most of us, and how much that meant to myself and the rest of the guys, and what it meant to him to win his first gold medal.
I always enjoy seeing Pop and the rest of the staff because we spent most of the summer together, and we accomplished something special. From the staff and the guys that were on that team, we will forever have a bond, and that’s a special feeling. It was obviously a great group and a great coach.”
Tatum Was Surging Before Contracting Covid
Despite a slow start to the season, which saw Tatum struggle to score the ball, both from deep and around the rim, the Celtics star wing had begun to figure things out before contracting COVID.
In the 10 games, before Tatum entered the health and safety protocols, he averaged 27.2 points, 8.4 rebounds, and 3.9 assists per game on 45.4% shooting and 36.9% from the field, per Basketball-Reference. Those numbers were a far cry from how the St. Louis native started the year, where his three-point shooting hovered around the 32% mark despite him taking eight threes per game.
Tatum’s slow start, along with his health and safety-induced absence, could impact his bid to be named to a third successive All-Star team, with the wing being touted as a possible name to miss out following the development of Zach Lavine with the Chicago Bulls.
Tatum will have the opportunity to remind people of his All-Star credentials on December 5, when he faces his Olympics mentor and friend along with the rest of the Spurs team.