Not a Great Look for Celtics’ Tatum after Loss


Not a Great Look for Celtics’ Tatum after Loss

While most of Celtic nation has spent today celebrating the team’s moral victory (loss) over Giannis and the Bucks, the bigger picture presents a more alarming trend among one Celtics star. In one of the biggest games of the year, Jayson Tatum did not play due to a non-Covid illness.

Marcus Smart also had a right ankle sprain that has had him out since January 21. There has been little reporting on how severe Tatum’s illness was, but I think it’s fair to say that some people would’ve liked Tatum to step up and play in this game. Going into the game, the Bucks sat 1.5 games behind the Celtics for first place in the Eastern Conference. 

Historically speaking, home-court advantage in the NBA playoffs is extremely important. So this loss against the Bucks hurts in the standings, and moral victory or not, a series in late May won’t take into account the heart and soul of the team’s backups. 

Is It a Load Management Issue With Tatum?

Now to Tatum. The issue of his load management has been a topic of discussion all year among C’s fans. In last year’s Finals, Tatum was nowhere near himself against the Warriors, averaging 21.5 points, 7.0 assists, and 6.8 rebounds.

In addition to his subpar offensive performance, his 23 turnovers in the series made the team borderline unwatchable by the time the Warriors celebrated their fourth championship on the parquet. 

The narrative of Tatum’s struggles in The Finals has primarily centered around the idea that he wasn’t ready for the moment. And this certainly has some merit, given that it was Tatum’s first NBA Finals, and he was going against Steph Curry and the dynastic Golden State Warriors.

Desire To Win Important Regular Season Games

Even so, perhaps an underrated cause for his struggles was that he played 76 games out of 82 in the 2021-22 season. The long grind of an NBA season takes a toll on players’ bodies, and perhaps Tatum had reached his limit last year in mid-June. 

If Tatum’s performance was impacted by his lack of load management, taking some more games off is perfectly reasonable. However, Tatum has seemingly been pushing back against those suggesting he take some time off…until now. The Celtics have played 58 games this season, and Tatum has played in 54 of them. This is very high, but he is still on pace to play fewer games than last season. 

In short, Tatum taking time off is good, but one can’t help but question where his heart is when he doesn’t play in a crucial game against the team’s biggest threat and plays the next night at home against the 15-43 Detroit Pistons. This is incredibly frustrating when Tatum has expressed his desire to stat pad, which will surely enhance his MVP chances.

Courtesy of the ESPN YouTube Channel

Stat Padding MVP Chances

A few weeks back, Tatum exploded for 51 points against the lowly Charlotte Hornets, playing late into the game. After the game, Tatum explained to reporters how former NBA player Jamal Crawford had told him that no one would remember a 49-point game and that he should go for 50. He listened. 

The classic “Green Teamers” may jump up and down over a Tatum 50-burger against a lottery team. But the reality is he should be more focused on doing whatever he can to play in a crucial game against a top competitor than getting 50 points in a game in January. 

Strange Timing

The timing of Tatum sitting out can’t be ignored. On Sunday, the NBA All-Star Game will take place in Salt Lake City. For whatever reason, the NBA has become a giant middle school where popularity and coolness among fellow players is extremely important. The All-Star Game has served as the cool table over the past decade.

It has become evident that Tatum wants to be a part of this exclusive club which features the glitz and glam of players like LeBron James and Kevin Durant. Some have speculated that Tatum sitting out against the Bucks was to make sure he was ready to go in the meaningless All-Star Game.

If this is true, and Tatum values buddying up with rivals like (vomit) Kyrie Irving and company over doing what he can to help the Celtics win a title, we have a massive problem. After all, the guy has yet to truly prove himself. For Tatum, it has to be all about 18, not all about him.

You can follow me on Twitter @jrk899. Thanks for reading!