Pierce sees ‘growth’ and ‘maturity’ in Tatum: ‘He’s more of a leader’

Tuesday night’s Game 1 matchup between the Boston Celtics and the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference semifinals marks Jayson Tatum’s 100th playoff appearance. The 26-year-old joined elite company alongside LeBron James and C’s legend Larry Bird as the only players to record over 2,300 points, 750 rebounds, and 450 assists in their first 100 playoff games.

Có thể là hình ảnh về 1 người, đang chơi bóng rổ, đám đông và văn bản

While discussing the high-level accolade on NBC Sports Boston’s Celtics Pregame Live, former Celtic Paul Pierce chimed in to give Tatum his flowers, noting that he has seen the five-time All-Star come a long way in both his physical skills and on-court mentality.

“I’ve seen true growth in Tatum,” Pierce said of Tatum’s 2024 campaign. “Last year, he went from a guy that averaged 30 (points per game in 2022-23, to a guy) that understands that he doesn’t need 30 to get a win.”

Last year, Tatum ended the regular season averaging a career-high 30.1 points per game. This year, that total dropped to 26.1 as Tatum bought into head coach Joe Mazzulla’s team-first mentality — putting individual accolades aside for team success. Tatum’s field goal percentage benefitted as well, increasing from 46.6 percent from the field to 47.1, and 35 percent from deep to 37.6.

“I see his maturity — he’s more vocal, more of a leader, I feel like,” Pierce added. “I feel like his time is now and he understands the process, he understands the moment, he understands what he has to give in the moment.”

Pierce added that Tatum now has the mental maturity to know when to continue playing Mazzulla’s team-first basketball or when it’s time to play superstar and take over the game, compared to previous seasons where Tatum would look to prove he’s the best on the court.

“He understands when he really needs to take that step up for the team to win, and he can do that for them,” Pierce clarified.

With Tatum and co-star Jaylen Brown putting personal glory aside, teammates Derrick White, Sam Hauser, and Payton Pritchard have seen significant statistical leaps, contributing more to team wins — something that has made Boston’s offense nearly unguardable.

Throughout the first five games of Boston’s 2024 playoffs, Tatum has averaged 21.8 points, 10.4 rebounds, and 5.4 assists per game.


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