Saturday, February 24, 2024

Jayson Tatum hopes MVP 'voters are smart enough to understand the dynamic' of Celtics

With the All-Star break in the rearview mirror and as teams buckle down for playoff positioning, the discussion for league MVP is starting to heat up.

Jayson Tatum, fresh off his fifth All-Star appearance, has been mentioned among the likes of Luka Doncic of the Mavericks, Nikola Jokic of the Nuggets, and the Thunder's Shai Gilgeous-Alexander just to name a few in the Most Valuable Player debate.

Just this past week, Tatum called himself the best player in the NBA during a recent interview with ESPN's Malika Andrews, sparking even more than usual MVP talks amidst the national media.

Following the Celtics' 129-112 victory over the Bulls on the road, Tatum further explained his stance on the race for MVP and what voters should understand when it comes to being considered for the year-end award.
"Those guys are putting up ridiculous numbers every night and doing a lot for their team. I have no problem with those guys being the leaders of the MVP race," Tatum told reporters Thursday night. "I wasn't saying that I needed to be first. I just had a problem with some people on TV saying that the reason why I won't win this year is because of something that happened two years ago."
Tatum, who referenced his lack-luster performance in the 2022 NBA Finals, is leading the Celtics this season with averages of 27.1 points on nearly 48% shooting from the field to go along with 8.5 rebounds and 4.8 assists per contest so far.

Meanwhile, the Celtics are a league-best 44-12 and have a 7.5-game lead over the second-place Cavaliers for the best record in the Eastern Conference.

However, Tatum did mentioned that given Boston's talented roster and not always being the team's leading scorer every night -- such was the case in their win against the Bulls -- the hope is that voters take that into account when comes time to making their choice.
"I won't have the points per game that the other three or four guys will," Tatum said. "But I think the voters are smart enough to understand the dynamic of our team, essentially having to do less scoring maybe on certain nights, but still impact the game in a lot of ways to ensure that we win every single night, that we're in first place, that we're trying to be the best team, that everybody on the team feels valued, right?
"That's not just about me. Because I'm gonna need everybody down the stretch; we're gonna need each other for what we're trying to do, to try to win a championship."
Of course, Tatum's head coach Joe Mazulla answered an emphatic "Yes," when asked if his star forward was deserving of being named leaue MVP.
"I mean, I think, one, defining what most valuable means. It's not just about scoring. It's the ability to have sustainable success, the ability to make people around you better, and the ability to be great," Mazzulla elabotated during his postgame comments
"He's done it for a long time and I think is underrated in that conversation, and it's something that, I think he's doing a great job of reshaping what it means to be the best player. And he does it every night. He does it differently. You've really got to watch the games and understand how he has an impact on himself and his teammates."
With 26 games left down the stretch of the regular season, the Celtics are on pace to win well over 60 games as they seek to raise their first championship banner since 2008. Whether Tatum's MVP chances increase within the next few weeks or not, the team's focus and goal still remains the same and that may be more vauable in the eyes of the soon to be 26-year-old. 

Joel Pavón

Photo used courtesy of The Associated Press

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