Many fans felt the Celtics were robbed of the victory in LA due to bad calls late in the game. It was a heartbreaking loss to take. But stepping back and taking a moment to breathe, fans can easily find the silver lining in that loss. In two words, Jayson Tatum. In his 36 minutes on the court he reached his career high 41 points for the second time this season. Those 41 points were accompanied by 5 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 blocks and 1 steal. LeBron James even made the comment that's been heard around the world now, "Jayson Tatum is an absolute problem." If nothing else, LeBron's words has bolstered Tatum's confidence, but it has also given the NBA a reason to take notice and give Jayson the respect he deserves.
What makes Jayson Tatum an absolute problem for LeBron and the rest of the League? Let's start with the lowered expectations the NBA had placed on him coming into this season. No matter what analyst was on TV, the radio or writing an article, the rhetoric was the same. "Jayson Tatum will not be an All Star, will not be a super star, has years before he'll be great in this league." Apparently Jayson Tatum didn't get the memo, because he is rising quickly to elite level in the NBA. He played in his first All Star game on February 16, 2020. He is the second player in the NBA this season to score 36 points without attempting a free throw. (The other player, in case you're curious, Marcus Smart.). James Harden, LeBron James and the like can't boast of that. Most recently Tatum reached a career-high eight treys in a game. His averages for February, not counting his most recent two games, are nothing less than greatness: 30.3pts, 7.2 Reb, 3 ast, 1.3 blk and 1.2 stl. He's becoming unstoppable, or as LeBron says, "an absolute problem." In fact, according to Marc D'Amico, "The one and only thing that has stopped Jayson Tatum this month was Frank Vogel, who gave Tatum only 13+ mins in the All-Star game." Tatum's momentum is moving at a pace beyond all expectations and can land the Celtics in a battle for not only the Eastern Conference Title, but also the NBA Championship.
As Tatum continues to emerge and his talent shines among his teammates and opponents, murmurs of 'MVP' can be heard across arenas everywhere he's playing; putting him amongst the league's superstars, Giannis, LeBron, Harden, etc. Here's what makes Tatum stand out from all of them and makes him the greatest. He's not only putting up the numbers, but he's realizing he's not doing this on his own. It would be easy for a 22 year old to take all the credit, become unbearably arrogant and inward focused. Tatum's love and respect for his teammates is absolutely refreshing. When asked about fellow Celtic, Jaylen Brown, Jayson stated, "We've both kind of taken leaps this year, so it's been fun." He also express appreciation for Daniel Theis as he said in a recent interview, "I told Theis I'm going to get something of this birthday. Like a watch or something. Especially for me, he opens the game up so much with getting me easy buckets. That opens the game up for me and he does it for everybody. That's a thing that doesn't show up in the stat book. Theis is that dude." Because of his humility and love for the game, his teammates are quick to give him praise and appreciation as well. Kemba Walker has said several times, "He's incredible...!" Marcus Smart, "His (Tatum's) growth isn't just good for him, but for the this team." Coach Stevens, "He's always been a good two-way player." Jaylen Brown, happy for Jayson, quoted, "You've gotta want for your brother what you want for yourself." Jaylen is also rising quickly, but quietly behind his teammate.
While there are some who may say Tatum is not a superstar yet, none will argue he's on his way and will be sooner rather than later. Before the double OT against the Clippers, Doc Rivers asked, "Can you imagine how Tatum will be playing in five years?" Doc got a court side preview of exactly how Tatum will be playing in five years.
It's going to be a very exciting postseason for Celtics fans as Jayson spreads his 6'11" wingspan and shows us all what he's capable of. For the doubters, they will be silenced. For all others, especially Boston, get ready for the Victory Parade. And as always, #bleedgreen.