Tatum's Cool, Calm & Collected in Crunch Time
BOSTON – Jayson Tatum was the only Celtic who played all 12 minutes of the fourth quarter Thursday night. And for good reason; the 19-year-old rookie has been killing it during crunch time, and he did not disappoint against the Philadelphia 76ers.
Tatum took advantage of his late-game opportunity by pouring in nine points on 4-of-6 shooting during the fourth quarter, while leading the Celtics to a 108-97 win.
Think that’s impressive? Well, it’s nothing new. Boston’s promising, young wing has been shooting off the charts during the fourth quarter all season long. Just take a look for yourself:
NBA leader in...— Taylor C. Snow (@taylorcsnow) December 1, 2017
4th quarter FG% (min. 50 shot attempts) – JAYSON TATUM (65.5%)
4th qtr 3-pt% (min. 10 shot attempts) – JAYSON TATUM (69.2%)
FYI: That's not just among rookies. That's among ALL players.
Those shooting numbers would be impressive for a 10-time All-Star, let alone a teenage rookie. Just ask Al Horford, who’s been in the league for more than a decade.
“It’s pretty special when you’re not afraid of the moment and you just go out there and you make plays for your team and you’re confident,” said Horford. “And he looks good doing it; he looks very comfortable. So that’s something that gets us excited because he’s another weapon, another person that can score the ball down the stretch.”
It was uncertain how much of a role Tatum would have during his rookie season, but a window has opened up and he has jumped right through. His diligence and maturity is impressing players and coaches all across the league, including 76ers head coach Brett Brown.
“When you saw Gordon (Hayward) go down at the start of the year, you wondered how it was all going to play out, and I think that Jayson has come in and played in a very mature way,” said Brown. “He’s a quality kid … He really has had a heck of a year, and the minutes that he’s playing are going to serve him well.”
It’s unusual for a teenager to earn as many minutes (30.6 per game) and have as much of a role as Tatum currently has with the C’s. He has one teammate, however, who can relate.
Kyrie Irving was in very similar shoes as Tatum at the beginning of his career, having been a top-3 draft pick who was handed a substantial role at just 19 years of age.
He, as much as anyone, understands the key to having such strong poise at such a young age.
“The best way to do it is just to consistently prepare as best as you can, understanding that you want to be great in your role,” explained Irving. “And in order to do that, you have to understand not only our offense and defense, but you have to understand players and individual tendencies of your teammates, spots where you’re going to be getting the basketball – where you want to work on your game specifically because those are the spots where you’re going to be getting the most shots – or just finding the balance of trying to be aggressive and trying to be aggressive on a possession for your teammates. That’s a hard balance, especially when you’re playing with other great players.”
Irving was able to find that balance during his first season with the Cleveland Cavaliers, as he averaged 18.5 points and 5.4 assists per game while earning Rookie of the Year honors. He has since been selected to four All-Star games and has made three Finals appearances.
Based on how Tatum is performing, he could potentially follow a similar path as Irving.
“He’s doing a great job of just figuring it out every single day,” said Irving. “He’s a high-level player and a high-level mind. He’s mature beyond his years, so he’s always figuring it out on a day-to-day basis. He’s a rookie, and he still has a long way to go, but presently, now, he’s in a further place than most rookies are in this league.”
Tatum may be a rookie, but he certainly isn’t playing like one. Nor is he being treated like one by his teammates and coaches.
“I’m kind of over the ‘how young he is’ because we need him,” said C’s coach Brad Stevens. “We just need him. And he’s done a good job thus far.”
He sure has. And the crazy thing is that he is just beginning to develop as an NBA player. So if you think Tatum has been impressive so far, just wait until you see what he becomes.