Failed to launch Jayson Tatum
If around this time last year someone approached you claiming they were from the future and said, verbatim, ‘Tatum is going to win the Larry O’Brien Trophy next season’, you might have You may have been a little surprised, but people from the future have already offered far more terrifying proclamations. On the scale of Doctor Strange’s 14 million findings on the inevitable impact of climate change, this one would have fallen safely into the “Back to the future predicts the Cubs will win the 2015 World Series camp. The idea that Jayson Tatum would be crowned NBA champion a year after a forgettable, season-long disaster would have seemed noble, but not absurd.
Too bad this future inhabitant did not specify which Tatum. Because it was Mark Tatum, the deputy commissioner of the NBA, who would hold and then hand over the NBA championship trophy to Steph Curry and the Golden State Warriors while the better known Tatum sulked in the locker room, discouraged. Thinking of missed shots and opportunities, those who, in part, prevented his Boston Celtics from winning their first title of this new era despite having a one-game advantage in this series not once, but twice. Wondering what was wrong when the lights got brighter than they had ever been in Tatum’s young and promising career.
“It hurts,” said Tatum, who scored just 13 points on six of 18 shooting in Boston’s 103-90 Game 6 loss. Although he started the night draining three of his six attempts in the first quarter and keeping the Celtics within easy reach of the Warriors early on, Tatum’s shot stalled for the rest of the game. In addition to his meager scoring performance, he pulled just three rebounds, and while he had seven assists, he countered nearly every assist with a turnover; his five gifts (of Boston’s 22 Abyssals) were tied for a high. Tatum recorded 23 total turnovers in the final and along the way became the first player in NBA history to have 100 turnovers in a single postseason.
“We all could have done things better. I feel like I could have done a lot of things better,” he continued. “But we competed, we tried all season, all playoffs. … It’s hard to get there, and it’s even harder to turn the corner and win it.
Even given Tatum’s flaws, the idea that he’s ever been Boston’s worst player in this series isn’t worth heeding. Despite his poor bookend performance – 12 points on three-of-17 shooting in Game 1; 13 forgettable points in Game 6 – still averaging 21.5 points and had a handful of solid scoring outings in Games 2-5. The Celtics’ reserves have been a waste of nothing for most of the series , including a cataclysmic no-show in the closest. But 21.5 points per game in the NBA Finals when you’re supposed to be a team’s best point guard, scorer and leader is unacceptable. Debut in the final or not.
What’s worse? How steep was Tatum’s fall from the series before this one to Boston’s final game of the season. Heading into Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals, he was averaging over 28 points per game on 45% shooting in the playoffs. From that point on, he scored just 23 points per game on under 40% shooting. Tatum shot just 31.6 percent from two-point range in the NBA Finals and made just 65.6 percent of his free throws.
In his final post on the 10 takeaways of the season, Keith Smith of CelticsBlog pointed out: “In the final, [Tatum] led more than ever to 15.3 records per game. In the playoffs overall, that number was 14.1 and in the regular season it was 11.4. In the regular season, Tatum shot 48.8% on discs. In the playoffs overall, it was at 38.3%. But that playoff number is dragged down by a horrendous 31% in the Finals. His 37% shooting from the field in the Finals is the worst clip of any player to shoot more than 20 times per game in an all-time Finals series.
There are a lot of factors that likely play into that, including the fact that Tatum has played 983 minutes this postseason, 63 more than the player who has played the second most minutes, teammate Jaylen Brown (920). That’s 191 minutes more than the first warrior on the list, Klay Thompson (who played 792). That’s the most minutes played by a player in a single postseason since LeBron James in 2012 (James also played 983). Maybe Tatum was tired – many NBA commentators, including many ex-players, will tell you that’s not a reasonable excuse, but total minutes are a lot of time to carry the most weight. in a team that goes all the way. on the verge of a championship. It doesn’t matter if you are a professional athlete or a professional Hibachi chef: you would also be tired if you ran for 983 minutes.
Then comes the idea that the moment was too big for Tatum; that the opponent across the aisle was the toughest Boston had faced thus far, and that as the Warriors got stronger, Boston got weaker. On ESPN Rise, Brian Windhorst noted that these Celtics were one of the most resilient teams he had ever covered, but that the Warriors did indeed improve as the series went on, while the Celtics fell apart, with “Tatum as personification of that.” It’s certainly a possibility – that with the fate of his team’s season in his hands, Tatum has been fumbling and, in turn, has been fumbling for a potential safe to legitimate superstar status, at least by mainstream standards. (which, it should be noted, are often unrealistic).
But there’s so much more to a player’s playoffs than what he did or didn’t do on the biggest stage. Yes, Tatum failed when there was no room for him. But along the way, he also led all playoff players in points and assists; was crowned Eastern Conference Finals MVP; became the youngest player in NBA history to score 600 points, grab 100 rebounds and dished out 100 assists in the playoffs; beat teams led by Kevin Durant, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jimmy Butler en route to their first NBA Finals; scored 46 in a do-or-die game against a Bucks team that looked set for a second straight title run; lost 13 assists on his finals debut; and won two Game 7s.
Tatum turned 24 in March. Keep that in mind when you try to frame this as a career-defining failure.
“Learn and understand who he is in this league. You’re a first-team All-Star, All-NBA guy for a reason. That’s just the beginning of how you’re going to be guarded and cared for. that you’ll attract,” Ime Udoka noted of Tatum’s post-game streak. “I think that’s the next step for him. Understand this. He suffers, but he is a great player. High IQ player. He will use it to propel himself.
“For him it’s just about continuing to grow and understanding that you’re going to see that the rest of your career. This is just the start.”
“I just gave her a hug, man,” Jaylen Brown added. “I know it was a tough last game. It stings that we didn’t play to our potential. But it is what it is. You need to learn from it and move on. As difficult as it was, it was a great year. It was a great trip.
For a day, at least, much of the coverage you see on this site and others like it will likely focus on what Boston didn’t do in the Finals rather than what they did in the Finals. of their race. And that’s right. When you reach the final, everything else fades away. It’s a clean slate, and if you make a mess of it, that’s probably what you’ll be remembered for, no matter how memorable everything that came before was.
But I guess my request, as far as Tatum is concerned, wouldn’t be to let everything he’s done in the last six games of this season take away from his burgeoning legacy, but rather as something that fuels it. “You don’t want to feel like this anymore,” a sullen Tatum said after Game 6. “But you want to come back here… Yeah, that’s gonna fuel us.”
Al Horford expressed a similar sentiment: “I don’t necessarily want to get caught up in some of the bad things that happened tonight,” he said. “I want us to keep perspective on Jayson and Jaylen’s growth this year. There’s a lot on their hands, a lot of responsibility. They took him head-on. They made adjustments. They got better. They grew as players.
Back to what Ime Udoka focused on: “This is just the beginning.” There should be plenty more big moments for Jayson Tatum in what bodes well for a long decorated career. At times this season, he looked like an alien, a force of basketball nature as unstoppable as any player in the league. And at times, especially noticeable in these finales, he looked anything but infallible. That’s life.
No superstar has ever gone through their entire career without failing on a bigger stage than they’ve ever seen. LeBron James was swept away by the San Antonio Spurs — a franchise that serves as a strong parallel for those Warriors teams — in his first foray into the Finals. Kawhi Leonard lifted the trophy for the first time on his second trip, having lost in seven games to LeBron’s Miami Heat on his first attempt. It took Steph Curry four seasons to qualify for the playoffs, let alone win a title (six seasons); including the title he won less than 24 hours ago, he now has four rings and is considered one of the greatest to ever play the game, as well as being one of the most decorated .
Tatum should make it happen. A bettor could put something on his future odds today. But getting there takes time, and all things considered, Tatum is ahead of schedule. He said that loss and his own personal failures that fueled it will in turn fuel him. That’s about as close to a guarantee as you can get.
After the game, sitting to Tatum’s left on the podium, Marcus Smart told reporters: “We went through hell to get here. We didn’t play our best basketball, our best series. This is probably our worst series. The things we went through to get here showed us what we had to come for us in the future. I think that’s why we have confidence in the future. We all know what the goal is in the future.
He was talking about the Boston Celtics. If you feel like it, though, you could probably argue that he was also talking about Jayson Tatum.