Tatum, Brown Earning Respect From Peers Through NBPA Discussions
BOSTON – Jayson Tatum’s figurative growth spurt during the 2019-20 Season hasn’t been limited to his play on the basketball court. He has also grown within the minds of his NBA peers as one of the more respected young voices in the game.
Such was evident this spring when National Basketball Players Association President Chris Paul phoned the 22-year-old Celtics wing and asked him to take part in the discussions between the league and the players' union on how to logistically restart the season in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“When things behind the scenes were starting to ramp up, Chris Paul called me and [said] that he would like me to be a part of these conversations for a lot of different reasons,” Tatum revealed Tuesday afternoon during a Zoom teleconference call with the media. “And I agreed.”
One of the main reasons why Tatum was called upon was because of his eligibility for a contract extension this fall. As such, he could provide a voice for players who would either be up for extensions or who would be heading into free agency, seeing as those players’ financial futures would be at stake by taking part in a rapid restart and also by playing during a pandemic.
“If you just think about it, we’ve been off for four months,” Tatum said. “And not being able to be in a training facility, because we were supposed to stay at home, and not having the normal access to the weight room or the gym, and then be asked to ramp up and pick it back up at such a rapid pace and go down there and play – I mean, guys are putting a lot on the line.
“I was voicing for [the league] to make some type of adjustment that would give guys some stability going into this time that’s so uncertain.”
Tatum’s opinions have been consumed with high regard, as both Paul and NBPA Executive Director Michele Roberts have praised his assistance in the negotiating process over the past month.
For the budding superstar, he was just humbled to be called upon to contribute and to be given the opportunity to understand the full responsibilities of the NBPA.
“It’s fascinating the work that goes on behind the scenes that the outside world doesn’t hear about,” Tatum said of the union’s responsibilities, particularly during these challenging times. “They’re always working, they’re always listening to ideas on everything that you can think about, from access to practice courts, to barber shops, to activities – just anything that you can think about, they discussed. So, it was cool to just be in there to listen and to give my opinion on certain subjects as a younger guy.”
Another young player who has been active in NBPA discussions for more than a year is Tatum’s teammate, Jaylen Brown.
The 23-year-old wing is the youngest of nine members in the NBPA executive committee, serving as one of its vice presidents. Being an outspoken player on various topics, it’s a role that he cherishes deeply.
“Just to be able to contribute to the executive community such as the one that I'm involved in with Andre Iguodala, Anthony Toliver, CJ McCollum, Chris Paul, Malcolm Brogdon, Kyrie Irving, Garrett Temple, and all those guys – they're intelligent, great guys and they think critically, they think with a level-headedness that I appreciate,” Brown said Monday morning. “So those guys, in their decision-making and making sure that we push the agenda that we want to push for the players, for the overall 450, is what I respect the most.
“Being a part of that, I’ve learned a lot. I’m the youngest out of that executive committee, so I do more listening than I do talking, but I think those are some really good guys that I’ve learned from.”
Being a young voice is also an important role during such discussions since players like Brown and Tatum represent the future of the league.
“I like to chime in and add my voice because I represent a younger demographic, being 23,” said Brown, who was also recently lauded by Roberts. “And being an opinionated 23-year-old, I think that anytime that I can jump in, my voice, they allow it to be heard and they appreciate it, and I’m thankful for that.”
Added Tatum, “It’s cool to be two of the younger guys and that people respect us and are willing to listen to our opinions on things that we think are important to talk about.”