BOSTON (CBS) — Jayson Tatum isn’t going to let the max contract that he just signed with the Boston Celtics change who he is. Tatum sees the opportunity ahead of him, and he’s going to run with it.
Tatum and the Celtics agreed to a rookie scale extension for the 22-year-old last weekend, one that will keep Tatum as the face of Boston basketball for at least six more season.
He said that signing the deal still hasn’t quite sunk in, but signing a max deal with one of the NBA’s most successful franchises is not something that is not lost on Tatum.
“It’s a dream come true,” Tatum said Tuesday as the Celtics tipped off training camp. “I’m extremely grateful and thankful; I don’t take it for granted or lightly. I get to be here for five more years.”
His five-year deal worth upwards of $195 million won’t kick in until next season, but Tatum is continuing to put in the work to be a “max player” on the floor this year. He became a deadly option on offense and a terror on defense throughout last season, and he’s looking to continue his rise up the NBA echelon.
He’s been working hard on every part of his game, Tatum told reporters on Tuesday. He’s working to become a more efficient shooter from deep. He’s working on improving his moves to the rim and becoming better at playing through contact. He’s working on becoming an even bigger presence on defense.
It sounds like Tatum is determined to be the player we saw during an unreal stretch last February, when the rising Celtics star became a problem for the rest of the NBA. But he wants to be that player throughout a full season and not just for a month stretch. It’s a tall order, but Tatum is ready to put the Celtics on his back.
While he continues to look for ways to improve as a player, the contract won’t change Tatum as a person. He didn’t walk into the Auerbach Center on Tuesday and demand everyone get behind him and follow his lead. That just isn’t who Jayson Tatum was, and it won’t be who Jayson Tatum is going forward because of the digits on his pay slip.
“I don’t come in here and walk around saying it’s my team. I don’t take that approach. Like everybody else, I show up for work and do my job the best of my ability,” he said. “I go out there and play. I don’t feel like I need to say or anybody needs to say anything – we all play for the Celtics and are part of the team being successful.
“I know I’m going to be here for a while and I’m happy for that, but I don’t say or feel like I have to say this is my team. I don’t play that way,” Tatum continued. “We have a bunch of talented guys and I’m happy to be a part of it.”
While a lot of the focus surrounding the Celtics has been the departure of Gordon Hayward — the third big-money player to leave the team over the last two seasons — Boston head coach Brad Stevens and president of basketball ops. Danny Ainge were quick to point to the young stars who have opted to sign long-term extensions over that same span. Tatum and Jaylen Brown both signed new deals that will keep them in Boston for the foreseeable future, and the powers that be see both as building blocks to a something great.
With those big contracts come greater expectations, but Stevens is confident that both Tatum and Brown can handle the added pressures. Mainly because they’ve been handling pressure since the day they arrived in Boston, and have done a pretty solid job with it.
“Because they’ve been playing in Boston and in meaningful games, they know what burden and expectation feels like. I don’t think this is a huge addition to that for them, because we’ve been in several long playoff runs already. They’ve seen that up close,” said Stevens. “What all that experience does is help you manage those burdens and expectations.”
“Jayson has been fun, a very bright spot of our franchise the last few years,” said Ainge. “The development of Jayson, Jaylen and Marcus [Smart] — they’ve all improved. Jayson was an All NBA player and Jaylen was on the verge. Marcus was First-Team All Defense. We have a good nucleus of guys, good players who are all getting better with a lot of improvement left in their games.
“We’re very excited to have Jayson and Jaylen on board with their new contracts,” added Ainge. “I couldn’t be happier having those guys around as building blocks.”