The Celtics really need Jayson Tatum to shoot again

BOSTON – Jayson Tatum blew up LeBron James at N.B.A. from last year. playoffs You may remember it. Tatum, the 21-year-old for the Boston Celtics, certainly does.

The dunk drew a "wow" from the game station by game Mike Breen. A reporter he wrote on Twitter that in the locker room later, he heard James saying that Tatum had "beaten" him before James repeated four times: "It's so good."

"I have a great picture of this in my house," Tatum said in a post-practice interview on Tuesday.

The dunk occurred in the fourth quarter of Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals last year. Starting from outside the 3-point line, Tatum took two dribbles with his left hand to reach the edge before hitting a dunk with his right hand past James, who attempted a block as a defender of the aid. Tatum followed the boom with a blow to the chest of James, one of his childhood idols, as if to say: "I'm here."

The Celtics lost that game, but the dunk solidified Tatum, who played one season at Duke, as an emerging N.B.A. star.

After the disappointing career of the Celtics' regular season this season, Tatum's star has not been as bright in these playoffs when Boston faces the Indiana Pacers in the first round. He did not make the jump that many thought he would do: while improving as a rebounder and pbader, his shot selection led to two longer points, which caused his true shooting percentage to go down from .586 in his rookie campaign to .547 this year, placing it below .560, the league average.

It increased its frequency of mid-range jumpers, but decreased its accuracy when performed: 37 percent, less than 44 percent. Many of his advanced metric statistics, including the actions gained by 48 minutes, the value on the replacement player and the plus / minus chart, were worse this year.

Tatum is in an unusual place, compared to his partner N.B.A. second-year students like Donovan Mitchell of Utah and Ben Simmons of Philadelphia. The better Tatum plays, especially in this postseason, it's more likely to be linked to rumors of exchanges, particularly those involving Anthony Davis, the New Orleans Pelicans star who has requested an exchange that could change the competitive balance in the NBA

Several university holders in this year's Final Four were older than Tatum. But if he can not live up to the exaggerations he created in last year's playoffs, that is, if he becomes another guard, the pelicans are likely to accept a package from the Los Angeles Lakers or from another team. of Boston. At the same time, if Celtics point guard Kyrie Irving opts for free agency this summer, the future of the franchise can rest on Tatum's shoulders. With just 21 years old, it would be the alpha.

Tatum's future is more uncertain than many other players who have received important early recognition. But one way or another, the Celtics need Tatum to be great. Not just for the playoffs this year, but for the future.

In short, they need it to boom.

In a conversation at the Celtics practice facility about his future and the atypical stakes, Tatum had ready points of discussion, which he had delivered several times before. He looked straight ahead, without making eye contact, as if he were executing the script in his head.

"Commercial rumors do not bother me," he said in his deep, monotonous tone. "They're talking about changing me for guys like Anthony Davis, so, I mean, I must be doing something pretty good." When he insisted that this bothered him, he did not move: "I love the game of basketball, being exchanged is part of the game, I'll play for anyone, it's something I can not control."

He did not have much more to say than that. But that's the personality of Tatum, said Brad Stevens, head coach of the Celtics. No distractions. That, said Stevens, is your best quality.

"Circumstances do not affect him," Stevens said. "The first game of the season, is not affected by the concerns that everyone has, Seventh game of a playoff series? Inafectado.At least, he shows himself as unaffected, and can thrive in that environment."

Stevens said Tatum's game quality improved as he got deeper into the season. He became a better pbader, with an average of 2.8 badists after the All-Star break, compared to 1.9 before. But his shots fell, from 38 percent from deep before rest to 35 percent after.

Last season, Tatum benefited from the Celtics' low expectations after injuries to Irving, striker Gordon Hayward and backup center Daniel Theis. But he also helped lead Boston to an improbable victory at N.B.A. Appearance of endings. This year, "unlikely" is not in the playoff vocabulary. The Celtics are supposed to get there. And Boston fans, never the most positive group, can turn a player into a second. If the Celtics do not advance, after many badysts predicted they would, the fans can see Tatum's season from a rough perspective, given the amount of fortunes in the franchise that are related to him.

Tatum said that this time he was not so nervous about the playoffs. Taking a pre-game daily nap with your 16-month-old has helped. The first results have been positive: in the first game of the series against the Pacers, Tatum scored 15 points on 11 shots. He had more than 11 in 34 minutes and the Celtics escaped with a win.

But there has not been a climax that has coincided with James' dunk. Tatum shook his head when asked if he had ever spoken with James about that work. An insinuation of a smile betrayed his practiced behavior.

"They won, so they got the last laugh," said Tatum.

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