2020-21 Season an Ongoing Learning Experience for Tatum

Through all of the Boston Celtics' trials and tribulations this season, a great opportunity has arisen for a young franchise cornerstone in Jayson Tatum to learn how to handle adversity and blossom into a better leader.

The All-Star forward expounded upon such Wednesday night after the Celtics fell 102-94 to the Cleveland Cavaliers, which dropped their record to 35-35 with two regular-season games remaining and a trip to the play-in round officially booked.

“I think that this is just a part of my growth from year to year, facing new challenges and learning from them,” Tatum said. “Obviously not going to be perfect, but I’m trying to figure it out as best as I can to help us in any way possible.”

And there is no reason to fault Tatum when one takes into consideration all of the obstacles that have been placed in his way this season.

At just 23 years old, he was handed the reins to help lead a team through an unorthodox season, while being just three months removed from a trip to the Eastern Conference Finals. His journey took an unexpected turn just one month in, as he was diagnosed with COVID-19. And when he returned, he dealt with lingering side effects that still haven’t disappeared completely. On top of all that, his team suffered more injury absences than any other NBA squad, leaving them shorthanded in every single game of the 2020-21 season.

In totality, it’s been a sobering experience for Tatum after being a part of such consistent success throughout his first three seasons in the NBA. And while this year’s roller coaster of a campaign has been frustrating, it’s also been important for his development in learning how to deal with shortcomings.

“In situations like these where you fall short, I just think about what more can I do,” Tatum said in reference to Boston’s latest loss Wednesday night. “And I’m pretty sure there are a lot of things I can do better. I’ll just continue to watch film, try to figure it out, try to be better for the next one and just try to be there for my team as much as I can right now and for the future.”

And that’s what he will keep doing as long as the Celtics remain alive this season. Because through all of their challegnes, Tatum has never complained and has never stopped showing up to work. He’s taken accountability, he’s continued to express a desire to help lead Boston now and in the future, and he has not given up hope that this team can still make some noise once the postseason begins.

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