Jayson Tatum reflects on reaching ‘special’ scoring milestone with Celtics originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston
That’s no small feat, given the long list of Hall of Famers who have played for this historic franchise. Tatum still has a ways to go before reaching legendary status, but he’s off to a stellar start.
The 25-year-old forward entered Saturday night’s game against the Brooklyn Nets needing 16 points to reach 10,000 for his career, and it didn’t take him long to hit that mark. Tatum reached the milestone in the second quarter when he carved up the Nets defense for a layup and the foul. He hit the free throw for his 10,000th point.
Tatum became the 10th youngest player and youngest Celtic ever to score 10,000 points.
“That’s special. That’s cool,” Tatum told NBC Sports Boston’s Abby Chin after the Celtics’ 124-114 win over the Nets.
“I’ve just been blessed to be at a great franchise. I’ve had some great teammates and great coaches who have contributed to me getting to 10,000 points. Hopfully I got a lot more to go and a lot more games to win.”
Tatum led all players in the game with 32 points on 10-for-20 shooting (6-for-10 from 3-point range). He also grabbed a team-high 11 rebounds. Tatum is averaging 29.8 points and a career-high 9.5 rebounds per game, while shooting 56.3 percent from the floor (40 percent on 3-pointers).
The Nets tried sending an extra defender Tatum’s way in the fourth quarter to force the ball out of his hands. Even when they succeeded at that, he was able to find the open teammate for a good shot.
“I’m glad he’s on my team. A scorer like him, makes it look so easy,” Celtics guard Jrue Holiday said postgame when asked about Tatum. “He gets to his spots, and he can do anything, whether it’s in the paint, the mid-post or the 3-point line.
“Not only that, but toward the end of the game, they started doubling him and he made the right plays out of it. Making the right pass, trusting his teammates and we’re getting good shots out of it. He really carried us in the fourth.”
Tatum isn’t just a great scorer, he’s very reliable. In an age where players of his caliber take plenty of games off each season, Tatum shows up almost every night and consistently produces at an All-NBA level.
“Outside of just who he is as a person and the professionalism he brings on a daily basis, he shows up to work every single day and puts the work in, dedicates his life to it,” Celtics head coach Joe Mazzulla said. “He doesn’t miss days, doesn’t miss practices, doesn’t miss games. And just his open-mindedness and wanting to be coached and wanting to be held to a high standard.
“When you have guys like that who you can coach, you see what you get out of him and it also allows you to bring the best out of everybody else. He’s one of the guys who sets the tone for us because he’s willing to be pushed to the ultimate limit and it allows us to do that to everybody. I’m really proud of him. I know he’s not going to stop.”
In some ways, it was fitting that Tatum accomplished this milestone at Barclays Center. It’s the arena where the Celtics drafted him in 2017. Seven years later, he’s one of the top five players in the league and arguably the favorite to win the MVP award this season.
It’s been a long journey for Tatum, and he’s grateful for landing with the team he did, even if he initially wasn’t sure how much he’d play given the abundance of talent the Celtics had on their roster in the summer of 2017.
“I was ignorant when I got drafted, despite what I thought I knew. First of all, I didn’t even want to come (to Boston) because I didn’t think I was going to play,” Tatum said postgame. “They had Gordon Hayward, Jaylen Brown, Isaiah Thomas, Marcus Smart. I didn’t think I was good enough to be on that team. It didn’t even cross my mind how to close a game or how to finish. I was more concerned about getting in the game and starting. Things happen for a reason, and I got my opportunity.
“It’s been a long process, and I’ve had to learn through the ups and downs through my mistakes of late-game decisions and whatever it may be. Just growing pains. Playing in enough games and playoff series you learn from those things.”