Yet, on October 12, we got our most candid response, as Sports Illustrated’s Chris Mannix produced an incredibly thorough write-up of the Celtics off-season, including some discussions with Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown from this summer.
One of the more notable points in Mannix’s piece is the segment where he discusses how Tatum handled losing to the Warriors, and the toll it took on him in the following weeks.
“Didn’t feel like talking to anybody. Didn’t feel like being bothered. It’s hard to explain if you have never been in that situation. But losing a championship was f—ing miserable…It’s hard to call it a good year. When you f—ing lose a championship,” Mannix wrote.
From an individual standpoint, Tatum certainly had a good season – being named to the All-Star team for the third successive year, earning All-NBA honors, and even being voted as the Eastern Conference Finals MVP. However, for a competitor such as Tatum, all of those individual accomplishments come secondary to winning a championship, which he and his teammates failed to do.
Tatum Played With a Fractured Wrist
Another piece of information that wasn’t available during the Celtics’ Finals run, was that Tatum was nursing a non-displaced fracture in his wrist. In fact, it wasn’t until an August 23 interview with Bleacher Report’s Taylor Rooks that Tatum spilled the beans on an injury that most likely affected his performance levels.
“I had a non-displaced fracture in my wrist. It was small, but it was a non-displaced chip – I had chipped the bone, but it didn’t leave the surface. It showed the bone had grown over and it had healed, but it would still hurt because I kept getting hit and falling on it. So, I guess I played with somewhat of a fracture for two months, and then in the playoffs, there was a play against Milwaukee in game three – I dunked it, Giannis (Antetokounmpo) chased me down and I fell into the crowd and that was the most painful it’s been since the day that I hurt it…After each game, I had to wear a brace, but I would take it back off before the cameras saw me,” Tatum told Rooks during the interview.
Despite his injury issues, Tatum still participated in 24 post-season games for the Celtics, averaging 25.6 points, 6.7 rebounds, and 6.2 assists per game while shooting 42.6% from the field and 39.3% from deep.
Tatum Working on His Leadership
Outside of his shooting struggles to begin and end last season, another aspect of Tatum’s game that has come under scrutiny in recent months is his ability to lead a team. Still, leadership is subjective – after all, there are many ways to lead, and not everybody responds to the same approach.
However, during a September 29 post-practice media scrum, Tatum struck a confident figure when discussing his ability to be one of Boston’s most significant voices, both on the court and in the locker room.
“I feel like I’m very vocal, I might not be the loudest guy, especially in front of the camera. But to the guys in the locker room, when we’re in practice, on the plane, or on the court, my presence is felt. We all put a lot into this game, and we all have the right to give input to each other. That’s all I try to do when I see something,” Tatum said.
Hopefully, with new lessons learned from Boston’s collapse against the Warriors, we’re going to see a new, locked-in version of Tatum, one that’s not only capable of winning an NBA championship but is also capable of being crowned as the league MVP along the way.