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The Boston Celtics boast the NBA's best record at 44-12. No other team has reached 40 wins. They've maximized having the most talented top six in the league. Doing so requires sacrifice.

For Jayson Tatum, that means maintaining a steadfast commitment to repeatedly making the winning play and embracing that, for as impressive a roster as Brad Stevens has assembled, the opposition will still craft game plans revolving around making his supporting cast beat them.


Yet the two-time All-NBA First Team selection had no qualms spending the day dishing out seven assists and registering four screen assists that produced ten points, the latter two representing game-highs, setting up his teammates to step into the scoring spotlight.

The former Duke Blue Devil's sacrifice is a critical ingredient fueling Boston's success. But it's also hurt his MVP candidacy. Surprisingly and, quite frankly, embarrassingly, two years later, Tatum not being at his best in the 2022 NBA Finals is also held against him in the race for this regular season award.

After generating 25 points, burying 5/10 threes, grabbing a team-best seven rebounds, distributing five assists, and swiping three steals in the Celtics' 129-112 win over the Chicago Bulls on Thursday, Tatum, who discussed that narrative during All-Star weekend, addressed it at the podium.

"I wasn't saying that I needed to be first; I just had a problem with some people on TV saying that the reason why I won't win this year is because of something that happened two years ago," stated the soon-to-be 26-year-old. "That was my only disconnect."

He continued, "I won't have the points per game that the other three, four guys will, but I think the voters are smart enough to understand the dynamic of our team, essentially having to do less scoring maybe on certain nights, but still impact the game in a lot of ways to, kind of, ensure that we win every single night; that we're in first place, that we're trying to be the best team, that everybody on the team feels valued. It's not just about me. Because I'm gonna need everybody down the stretch. We're gonna need each other for what we're trying to do, (which is) to try to win a championship."


"I'm human; it's a process," he admitted. "I was First Team All-NBA (the) last two years, I averaged 30. The human side's like, yeah, you want to continue to average more (points) every year. You see other guys putting up 30+ a night (and) you know you can do that. But part of growing is understanding what we have in this window, trying to maximize that and uplift the guys around me.

"And I think (it) just took some time for me to understand: I know I can score 30 a night; I did that. But that's not necessarily what this team needs on a nightly basis. So, taking that step back in a sense, for us to be better, I've done everything but win a championship. So, that's all I'm gonna be judged on at this point in my career, so, just doing what it takes to help us get to that point."

Tatum also recognizes that his sacrifices will help his championship pursuit, which, if successful, will position him for an individual honor more meaningful than an MVP Award.

Further Reading

Jaylen Brown Praises All-Star Snub: 'Excelling His Game at a Rapid Pace'

Jayson Tatum Addresses Discourse Around His MVP Candidacy

Jaylen Brown Doesn't Win Dunk Contest but Delivers Most Poignant Moment

Kristaps Porzingis Shares How First Season with Celtics Compares to His Expectations: 'Haven't Stopped Smiling'

Jayson Tatum's Approach vs. Nets Tale of Two Halves and Steadfast Commitment

Brad Stevens Discusses Celtics' Plan for Final Roster Spot

Brad Stevens Sheds Light on Celtics' Motivations for Xavier Tillman Trade

Marcus Smart Shares How Boston Shaped Him, His Message to Celtics Fans

Celtics Maturation Molded by Experience: 'It Builds, Like, an Armor'

Jaylen Brown Quieting Doubters, Validating What He Always Believed: 'Earn Everybody's Trust'

Joe Mazzulla Discusses Identity, Evolution of Celtics' Offense: 'Balance of Pace and Execution'