‘He’s Extremely Important’: Jayson Tatum Backs Highly-Criticized Teammate

Shaq and Charles Barkley leave Jayson Tatum off their All Star teams

Getty Jayson Tatum #0 of the Boston Celtics dribbles the ball against the Milwaukee Bucks.

Safe to say Tristan Thompson’s early-season play did not go the way he, nor the Boston Celtics had hoped for when the organization inked the big-man to a two-year, $19 million contract this offseason.

Brought in to serve as a physical defensive presence with championship experience, the 29-year-old Thompson had manned a leadership role for the Cs from the getgo. Yet, his on-court performance has left much to be desired, or at least it had. Thompson’s performance over the last two games has shown signs of a player who may very well be turning a corner.

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Jayson Tatum: Tristan Thompson is ‘Extremely Valuable’

While Boston may have suffered their second loss over their last three games on Wednesday night, Thompson came to play in Sacramento. The former NBA champion scored 17 points and brought down 10 rebounds against the Kings. This, one night after notching 13 points and eight rebounds in the team’s victory over the Warriors.

“He’s extremely important,” teammate Jayson Tatum said of Thompson’s value following the Kings loss. “Just his championship pedigree, his voice, his leadership, and obviously his play. One of the best big-man defenders in the league and one of the best rebounders.”

Thompson has now averaged 23.5 minutes over the last two games. While not staggering, it is a 5.2-minute jump from his 18.3-minute average over the three games prior. His development and comfortability within the Celtics’ rotation will be key come playoff time, as Boston will likely call upon Thompson to draw some big-time matchups against some of the Eastern Conference’s elites. Names such as Joel Embiid, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Myles Turner quickly come to mind.

“You just think about the guys we’re probably going to have to play against in the Playoffs,” Tatum said. “He’s extremely valuable.”

Thompson Credits Self-Reflection for Improved Play

While Thompson’s early-season performance may have left Celtics fans wanting more and the organization feeling a little short-changed, they weren’t alone. The big-man was very self-aware that he needed to provide more for his team, leading to an internal pep talk that reminded him of the player that he can be.

“I just looked in the mirror and just said, ‘Get back to being who I’ve been the last couple of years in Cleveland; a guy that’s been aggressive on both ends, and a guy whose game has gotten better,’” he recalled to reporters.

Between a hamstring ailment, COVID-19 protocol and getting used to his new surroundings, Thompson had his work cut out for him early on. Yet, the big-man believes he’s finally starting to get back to himself and the player that the Celtics brought him to Boston to be.

“It was always some kind of bump in the road,” he said of the early portions of the season, “and now that I’ve been able to play for three weeks straight, just trying to get back to being myself, and I felt like that these last two games.”

Thompson and the Celtics will look to get back to their winning ways on Friday as they continue their West Coast trip against the 17-6 Los Angeles Clippers.


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