Tatum says he's not nervous about facing the Cavs ... and he shouldn't be
While some Boston fans might be nervous to face the "self-titled" King, LeBron James, and the Cleveland Cavaliers in the upcoming Eastern Conference Finals, Celtics star-rookie Jayson Tatum does not share that sentiment.
After an absolutely astounding Game 5 performance (much like the rest of the series) to help continue the Celtics unbelievable playoff run and eliminate the Philadelphia 76ers in the process, Tatum noted that his attitude towards playing Cleveland has changed quite a bit since the start of the year.
"Night and day," said the Rookie of the Year candidate during a post-game interview when he was asked to compare his feelings entering the season-opener back on October 17th to the team's upcoming ECF tilt with the Cavs. Noting his added experience in the time since, Tatum said he's "a lot more relaxed and calm" and a lot more prepared for the team's next test ... as he should be.
Playing unconsciously throughout these playoffs, #0 has been making a serious argument for fans to rethink who should take home the aforementioned 2017-2018 ROTY award (okay, Ben Simmons getting completely exposed helped a bit too).
Jayson Tatum: "It’s like night and day. I remember the first time we played [the Cavaliers], I was so nervous. It’s been 90 games since then and I’ve been through a lot. A lot more relaxed and calm. I’m ready to go out there and play."
At still just 20-years of age, the Duke University product has now amassed seven-straight games of 20+ points in the playoffs which is only second to Lew Alcindor (that Kareem Abdul-Jabbar guy) all-time.
I don't think anybody saw this amount of success, especially in the post-season, coming already for Boston's youngest player and Celtic fans would love to see this run continue. Yet Brad Stevens and co. have a familiar, and daunting, foe waiting for them.
There's arguably no tougher defensive match-up in the league to go up against than LeBron James and more likely than not, Tatum will be covered by him throughout the upcoming series vs. Cleveland.
Don't expect him to match the success he's had so far in the playoffs as opposed to when he's covered by James, but this is a player who's continued to stun fans and experts alike again and again. Despite still being just 20 as previously mentioned, the C's rookie phenom has been fearless to this point and I wouldn't bank on his confidence to dip that much even if he might be defended by the best player in the league and a guy many people are arguing could be the best player to ever grace the NBA stage.
Regardless of how you feel about LeBron, he's still LeBron after all and I won't hold it against anyone for having a hard time generating offense against him, but oddly enough, maybe this match-up was a matter of destiny.
As seen in the tweet above, roughly six years back Tatum had tried reaching out to LBJ via Twitter for a follow back by posting a picture that the two took together.
Hard enough to imagine that's actually a picture of Jay Smooth at 14-years old (is my math right there?) as he barely looks a day over 10 in the photo, what's even crazier to think is that these two would one day be facing off six years later in the NBA's conference finals.
Here's hoping #0 makes LeBron regret not giving the soon-to-be Celtics stud that follow back.