Celtics

Jayson Tatum on the Celtics’ struggles and how he’s dealt with the lingering effects of COVID-19

"There is a difference in how my breathing is before I had the virus to now. "

Jayson Tatum
Jayson Tatum during his 60-point game in April against the Spurs. AP Photo/Elise Amendola

The Celtics’ presence in the NBA’s upcoming postseason play-in tournament has only strengthened the critique that the team has underachieved in 2021.

After a trip to the Eastern Conference Finals in 2020, most predicted that Boston would again secure a berth in the playoffs this year, only as a higher seed.

Instead, the Celtics have battled inconsistency, injuries, and several players having personal battles with COVID-19. One of those affected by the virus was leading scorer Jayson Tatum.

The 23-year-old tested positive in January and missed several games. When he returned, Tatum experienced lingering effects. He has subsequently spoken publicly about how he now uses an inhaler before games after never doing that pre-COVID.

In a recent interview on ESPN reporter Adrian Wojnarowski’s podcast, Tatum offered more on his ongoing experience recovering from the virus, as well as Boston’s collective struggles as a team.

“People still ask me that to this day, and the answer I give all the time is I do feel so much better than I guess the first game I came back from having it,” Tatum said of COVID-19. “I can tell and notice that my breathing is much better than it was then, but I also tell people that it’s hard to explain, it’s hard to pinpoint, but I don’t necessarily feel or breath the same that I did before I had COVID.”

“There is a difference in how my breathing is before I had the virus to now,” Tatum added.

Tatum noted that even after missing 18 days, he didn’t feel like he was anywhere close to being back to normal for “probably a little over a month or like a month and a half.”

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“It was frightening at first,” he said of his post-COVID return. “It was also frustrating, trying to come back and play and just feeling restricted. It’s hard to play when you’re out of breath, or short-winded. It’s hard to play at an extremely high level like I know I can, so I think that was the toughest part just trying to figure out how long is this going to last. Am I ever going to feel back to 100 percent? Those were the thoughts that were going through my mind as I was playing, as I was getting ready for games. I was always thinking about it when I was getting ready to play.”

Boston, currently on a four-game losing streak, sits at 35-35 through 70 games of the season. The inability to find consistency has made it a frustrating year for the Celtics.

“I think there’s a lot that factors into that,” Tatum said of the difficult run, “especially with the extremely short offseason that a couple of the teams coming from the bubble that went deep into the playoffs and [had] a quick turnaround. And you can’t really underestimate different guys’ reactions to testing positive and how that affects them returning.”

Still, Tatum said the Celtics have to take responsibility for the inconsistency, given how other teams have performed even in difficult circumstances.

“It’s easy to say don’t read too much into this season, but at the same time there are teams that are doing what they sought out to do,” said Tatum. “We’re still just trying to figure it out.”

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