Jayson Tatum is still getting better. Following Boston’s playoff run to the Finals, Tatum was left wanting more after Golden State defeated the Boston Celtics in Game 6 of the Finals to win the series 4-2 and went on to celebrate on the Celtics’ parquet floor.
“Definitely not a good feeling that I’ll never forget,” Tatum said per Sports Illustrated.
He shot 36.7 percent from the field in the Finals, down from 45.3 percent in the regular-season. The 2021-2022 NBA season was an eight-month slog for Boston, and after a rocky start, they almost came out on top. Tatum was exhausted toward the end of their run. Tatum went from averaging 35.9 minutes a night during the regular-season to playing 41.0 per game during the playoffs.
The physical tool he took manifested into a fractured wrist that forced Tatum to tape his wrist during games and a soft cast off the court, only taking it off when there were cameras around. When the Finals concluded with a Game 6 loss to the Warriors, Tatum went ghost for nearly two weeks, according to his trainer Drew Hanlen.
“I was exhausted. Didn’t feel like talking to anybody. Didn’t feel like being bothered. It’s hard to explain if you’ve never been in that situation but losing a championship was fucking miserable,” Tatum said on why he didn’t hit up Hanlen for two weeks after the Game 6 loss.
After the two-week sabbatical, Tatum went to work on improving his game.
Per Hanlen, Tatum was “intense’ during workout sessions and “became obsessed with winning.” Hanlen said he didn’t lose a one-on-one game all summer and famously barked at his teammates when they fell 0-2 during a five-on-five session. After winning their third game of the session, Tatum and his teammates went undefeated for the rest of the day.
weekend work pic.twitter.com/Ov23iLkMgd
— Boston Celtics (@celtics) October 9, 2022
He also wanted to improve his burst while attacking the rim to create contact and put more pressure on defenders. He was only fouled on 9.8 of his total drives. He adjusted his posture, embracing a lower base on his face-up. He tried to find ways to combat fatigue by changing his diet and increasing his conditioning drills. He shot hundreds of floaters.
He picked the mind of frequent workout partner and future Hall-of-Famer Kevin Durant. Tatum studied Durant’s ability to protect the ball, mainly how Durant uses his hips and shoulders to shield the ball from defenders and can protect it when he attacks the rim. Durant also gave Tatum advice on his hesitation dribble and side-step jumper.
“I’m still young enough where I feel like I can learn from a lot of guys,” Tatum said. “And he’s one of the best to ever do it.”
Despite his expected increased role, Tatum seems to be looking forward to the opportunity to improve on the Celtics’ dee 2022 playoff run in this upcoming season, and this time, he hopes he can take the lessons he learned this summer with him.