Jayson Tatum Fires Back at Critics Questioning His Leadership

Getty Imagesz Jayson Tatum of the Celtics scored 50 points in the Celtics win over the Wizards to advance to the NBA Playoffs

Boston Celtics All-Star Jayson Tatum’s game-high 50 points propelled his team to a 118-100 win over the Washington Wizards, Tuesday night; securing a first-round, best-of-7 series against Kyrie Irving, James Harden, Kevin Durant, and the Brooklyn Nets.

Tatum, who will be making his fourth consecutive postseason appearance, this weekend, had a lot to say before his masterful performance — where he drained 50 points on 14-of-32 attempts, including 5-of-12 from behind the 3-point arc while also netting a perfect 17-of-17 from the free-throw line. Jayson was in his bag and put his critics on notice hours before taking the floor.

After morning shootaround, Tuesday, the two-time All-Star was asked about his leadership style with the Celtics. Tatum, who isn’t always the loudest person in the room nor is he typically demonstrative with his teammates, is sometimes criticized for not showing enough emotion when things — as a team — aren’t going well throughout the course of a game.

Celtics’ Jayson Tatum On Leadership: ‘I Just Do it in My Own Way’

Tatum, through a long-winded response, offered some perspective.

“Everybody’s different, right? And I’m sure the people who watch the games and give their opinion on what happens kind of want you to be a certain way,” Tatum said. “(They) think that if you’re yelling and screaming, and stuff like that necessarily makes you a leader. It works for some guys (but) I’m certain we can name plenty of other guys who were special and led their team in a quieter way — just because of their demeanor and not necessarily yelling and screaming on the court or in the huddle so everyone can see. It can be in how you play, how you show up every day.

“Pulling guys to the side, which everybody wants to see that and I’m certain that people think that since I’m not overly emotional or do things like that they kind of question whatever they want to question but leadership comes in all different type of fashions — I just do it in my own way.”

Tatum chooses to lead by example. Accompanying his 50-piece stat line was eight rebounds, four assists, and two blocks, and Kemba Walker tallied 29 points, 7 rebounds.

Expectations, once upon a time, were extraordinarily high for the 2020-21 Celtics. Underneath the Philadelphia 76ers and the no. 2-seeded Nets, was where many believed Boston would eventually lie ahead of the playoffs.

However, that obviously wasn’t the case by the end of the season. Injuries, players missing games due to COVID-19 health and safety protocols, and losing All-Star Jaylen Brown due to season-ending surgery drastically decreased the Celtics’ chances of a deep playoff run.

Prior to dropping 50 points, Tatum was asked about his mindset heading into the Eastern Conference Play-In Tournament.

Tatum: ‘We Know What We’re Capable Of’

Is it similar to a newfound underdog fighting against All-Stars Bradley Beal, Russell Westbrook, and the Wizards or did Tatum feel the Celtics still need to match expectations?

“We still have expectations,” Tatum responded after the Celtics’ morning workout, Tuesday. “But regardless of what people think; (expletive) happens. We believe in ourselves, still. We know the season’s not over with. We know it hasn’t necessarily been ideal but we still have the utmost confidence in each and every guy in the locker room, and we know what we’re capable of as a unit.”

Game 1 of the Eastern Conference’s quarterfinal matchup between the Celtics and Nets kicks off Saturday night at Brooklyn.


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