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When Jayson Tatum plays well, he’s a basketball god to Celtics nation.
On off nights, he’s the most overrated player to ever walk the face of the earth and should be traded for a couple of bench players, a second-round pick and a Tacko Fall throwback Bobblehead.
A bit over the top, you say?
It’s the reality of Tatum’s world these days, one that for fans is based more on hype and expectations, than the reality that the 23-year-old on an off day is still better than the majority of players in the NBA now.
But being good in Boston is not good enough if that individual success doesn’t come with some semblance of team glory.
There’s a reason why you’ll never find a Celtics divisional banner in the rafters at the TD Garden.
Paul Pierce was one of the greatest to ever play for the Celtics. But if you removed the 2008 title from his resume, Pierce as a first-ballot Hall of Famer likely would not have happened.
And for all the records Tatum is poised to shatter as a Celtic, none will matter if his time in Boston doesn’t in doesn’t elevate this team back to being a top-tier club.
Sure, President of Basketball Operations Brad Stevens has to continue to bring in better talent than what we’ve seen thus far. And head coach Ime Udoka has to take that talent and mesh the right pieces around Tatum.
But in the end, it’s all about Tatum and what he can do to elevate this franchise.
And the Dallas loss was yet another game in which there were stretches in which Tatum’s ability to be a top-10 player in this league, were on full display.
After a lackluster first half which saw the Celtics trail by as many as 19 points, Tatum was a completely different player at both ends of the floor in the second half. That’s when he scored 20 of his team-high 32 points in the final two quarters of play.
And Tatum’s defense was better, too.
In the first half, his defensive rating was 122.6. But in the second, it had improved to 102.3.
It was the kind of breakout performance that Tatum was long overdue to have.
His struggles certainly gave the most die-hard Tatum supporter a reason to pause and wonder when would he snap out of his shooting funk.
But Tatum’s confidence in himself never waned.
“I put too much time, too much work in, to doubt myself or what I’m capable of,” he said. “My teammates, coaches, everyone I play against, they know what I’m capable of.”
Having that knowledge, that’s one thing.
Proving his worth consistently as both a leader on and off the floor, remains very much a work in progress for Tatum.
“I know how to play basketball. I’ve been doing this for a long time,” Tatum said. “I’m very successful at it. I’m not perfect. I have things I can work on. That’s the good part about it. As young as I am, as good as people think I am, I have a lot to improve upon. I’ll be the first to say that. But, I’m always going to play the game the right way, the way I’ve been playing all my life. That’s not going to change.”