After missing five straight games due to COVID-19, Boston Celtics All-Star Jayson Tatum picked up right where he left off; adding, yet, another efficient scoring performance to what’s been an impressive month, for Tatum.
To be frank, it’s been an extraordinary season for the 22-year-old forward. Finishing with 24 points or more in eight of his first 10 games prior, Jayson made it nine, Monday night – when he drained 10-of-21 from the floor, including 3-of-6 from deep.
The Celtics topped the Chicago Bulls, 119-103.
Tatum, whose 24 points came second to Jaylen Brown (26) in leading four of the Celtics’ five starters in double figures, was asked about the moment he found out he’d tested positive for the coronavirus. And how his mind and body reacted days removed from his initial diagnosis.
Jayson Tatum On His Bout Against COVID-19: ‘Mentally, It Was Tough’
“It was just one night – the first night I found out,” Tatum said. “I had a really bad headache and a high temperature; some body aches and chills. But, thankfully it was just the first night. After that, I felt completely fine. I just was resting and watching these guys play.”
But in the beginning, the mental strain coupled with the isolation took a mental strain on Tatum, who admits that the totality of it all – testing positive for a disease that’s killed close to half-a-million people in the U.S., per CNN – proved to be unbearable at times.
“Mentally, it was tough. Especially, your initial reaction when you find out,” Tatum said. “I don’t know if it’s panic. You definitely worry because of everything you read about and hear; how many people it’s affected and how many people didn’t make it. The first four or five days or so, it bothered me; it was on my mind. I was thinking, ‘Do I feel OK? Do I not feel OK?’ It was in my mind, ‘Can I smell this?’ or, ‘Does my chest hurt? Or, am I overthinking?’
“You’re on lockdown for two weeks. So, mentally, it can be tough, especially at first.”
Tatum’s timely return makes the likelihood of seeing the debut of the 2021 Celtics starting lineup at full strength a strong possibility. After making his anticipated season debut against the New York Knicks on January 17, Kemba Walker’s played four games but took the night off Monday due to it being the second leg of a back-to-back set.
Tatum’s scored 24+ points in his last six outings (January) while averaging 29.2 points on 49.3% shooting from the floor, 5.7 rebounds, and 4.5 assists.
Brad Stevens On Jayson Tatum: ‘Don’t Worry One Bit About Him Finding The Basket, It’s What He Does’
Now, with Walker fully rested and Tatum back into the fold, Celtics head coach Brad Stevens could send out his anticipated starting lineup of Tatum, Walker, Brown, Tristan Thompson, and Marcus Smart at full strength against the San Antonio Spurs Wednesday night.
“My hopes when guys are coming off long layoff and minutes restrictions is that they push themselves defensively and with cutting and with sprinting the floor in transition on offense,” Stevens said. “You’re going to get winded quickly. That’s why you can’t play long stretches if you’re playing that way the right way. I don’t worry one bit about him finding the basket.
“That’s what he does.”