Jayson Tatum Explains Key Difference Between Prime Tatum & Rookie Tatum

Jayson Tatum

Getty Jayson Tatum knows it's championship or bust for the Boston Celtics this year.

Although he’s been in the NBA for seven seasons, Jayson Tatum is entering his prime. At age 26, the Boston Celtics star played in his fifth All-Star Game and is likely to earn his fourth All-NBA selection this season.

Tatum came into the league as a scrawny 19-year-old prospect after playing one season at Duke. He experienced immediate success by reaching Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals against LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers. He’s only reached the NBA Finals once, however, when the Celtics fell to the Golden State Warriors in 2022.

Tatum recently opened up about the difference between Rookie Tatum and Prime Tatum.

Jayson Tatum Says Patience Is the Difference Between Then & Now

After losing to the Warriors in 2022, Tatum admitted he was crushed. It’s the closest he’s come to an NBA championship, and he spent all summer dwelling over missed opportunities. He has plenty of individual accolades, but the ultimate goal is to hang Banner 18 from the rafters at TD Garden.

Over the years, the game has slowed down for Tatum. A close-up view of the Finals helped him understand that it takes patience in order to become a champion.

“I’m going to get my shots, get my points,” Tatum told Jared Weiss of The Athletic. “It’s just about trusting the process. It’s tough when you’re younger. You just want everything to happen so fast and how you want it to happen, but it don’t work like that.”

He said that’s a reason why he doesn’t always start strong in games, while teammate Jaylen Brown looks to take charge right after the opening tap.

“I think it’s just our personalities, right?” Tatum said. “JB, ever since I’ve been on the team, has always just come out and started the game really aggressive. That plays to his advantage. That’s the way he gets his juices flowing.

“I’m naturally a laid-back guy. I kind of see things out first, and then I find a way to impact the game when I need to, and we’ve found that balance.”

Tatum Hopes Experience Leads to a Championship

The Celtics have reached a point where what they do in the regular season isn’t important. Tatum and Brown have to prove they can win when it counts — in the postseason.

Boston had a golden opportunity to return to the NBA Finals last year, hosting the eighth-seeded Miami Heat in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals. Miami blew out Boston and earned a surprising berth into the championship round. Neither Tatum, playing on a bum ankle suffered early in the game, nor Brown played well.

Those tough postseason losses, although they were painful at the time, have turned into learning experiences for Tatum.

“Earlier, I was just playing the game just to play the game, instead of just thinking it,” he said. “Now, I go out there, and I understand who we’re playing against. I know their scheme, and what they’re trying to do, which guys are in or out of the lineup.”

Tatum knows this season is championship or bust in Boston.

“I understand that, no matter what I do in the regular season, I’m at that point where people just judge me whether I can win a championship,” Tatum said. “I realize that, and it’s like, all right, I just gotta do it.”

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