Thursday, February 22, 2024

Jayson Tatum says this year's Celtics better than 2022 NBA Finals team

Jayson Tatum is enjoying his seventh year in the NBA as the leading scorer of the Celtics, who own the league's best record of 43-12.

Fresh off his fifth All-Star Game appearance, Tatum in a recent interview with ESPN's Malika Andrews spoke on a variety of topics including who he believed the league's best player is.
"Myself," Tatum responded directly without hesitation. "I have a lot of respect for a lot of guys in the league. Giannis for sure, [Nikola] Jokic, obviously he just won [the championship], [Joel] Embiid, guys that have won MVPs, and the list goes on. The league is in a great place. I think about things that I've been through -- just through my career -- things that I've accomplished, and yet I haven't got the ultimate championship.
"I truly do believe every time I step on the floor, I'm the best player," Tatum concluded."
It was a year ago when Tatum was asked the same question in a previous interview with Andrews and the Celtics All-Star's response was Giannis Antettokounmpo as the best player in the NBA.

While Tatum has already been to an NBA Finals and four Eastern Conference Finals, he did come up short to the Warriors in the 2022 NBA Finals and followed it up with a tough loss to the Heat last spring.

Still, despite the adversity he and his teammates have gone through over the years, Tatum is thankful for the lessons and for what's to come -- hopefully resulting in the ultimate goal.
"I'm a big believer in everything happens for a reason," said Tatum. "Maybe I needed to go through that for something. Haven't figured that out yet. But it happened, and I've grown from it, I've learned from it. In a weird way I’m thankful for that experience, as tough as it was, as much as it hurt. I'm thankful that I went through that. I think it's made me a better person and player since then."
At 25 years old, Tatum has already entered the Celtics record books, and been selected All-NBA a few times, and while he remains grounded when it comes to personal accolades the one thing that has eluded him is that first championship.
"I want to be a winner. I want to win," Tatum said. "I've felt that 'why hasn't he won? His window has closed.' It's tough when you have success early, right? I've been to the Finals once, been to the Conference Finals four times, so it just seems like, 'he should have done this, done that.' I was just doing those things at a really young age."
With the additions of Kristaps Porzingis and Jrue Holiday along with Derrick White having a career year, Tatum was asked if he thought this current Celtics team is better than the roster that made it to the NBA Finals two seasons ago.
"Yeah, it is," Tatum said "Just because I think I'm better than I was two years ago. JB Is better. KP makes all the difference in the world. Obviously, Jrue Holiday. And the way Derrick White has been playing compared to two years ago."
This past summer the Celtics signed Jaylen Brown to a $304 million contract extension and Tatum is eligible for possibly a $338 million extension this offseason -- securing the star duo for at least the next five years -- an investment well worth it, especially if it yields multiple championships.
"[We're] still relatively young guys," Tatum said of Brown. "Understanding that this is our time and we need to take full advantage of it. It's going to pay off in the long run."
In the meantime, as Tatum enters his prime he understands what is at stake as he seeks his hard work to eventually pay off and that could become a reality come June.
 "I've had some really good teams, and I've been a part of some really special runs, but I truly do believe my time is coming, and it's going to be well worth it," Tatum said.
The Celtics resume their season tonight against the Chicago Bulls, followed by the New York Knicks on Saturday, as the quest for banner 18 continues.

Joel Pavón

Photo used courtesy of USA Today

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