Celtics

Jayson Tatum regrets prioritizing stardom in 2018-19 season, wonders what could have been

"We wanted to be the guys."

Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Kyrie Irving, Gordon Hayward, and Al Horford were key contributors for the Celtics in 2018-19. Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

In 2018-19, the Celtics had all the pieces in place to win a championship.

They had a true superstar in Kyrie Irving, rising stars in Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, other talented scoring options in Gordon Hayward, Marcus Morris, and Terry Rozier, and strong role players in Marcus Smart, Al Horford, Aron Baynes, and Daniel Theis.

The Celtics almost had too much talent, and their chemistry issues ultimately proved to be insurmountable. They lost to the Bucks in five games in the conference semifinals and were left wondering what could have been as the Raptors beat the shorthanded Warriors in the NBA Finals.

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Nearly three years later, it’s clear that missed opportunity still haunts Tatum. Tatum, speaking on “The Old Man & the Three” podcast with fellow Duke product J.J. Redick and Tommy Alter, called the Celtics “the most talented team in the NBA” that year.

Though Kevin Durant, Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green had a rather compelling case when healthy, there’s no denying the Celtics were extremely skilled.

With Irving as the undisputed centerpiece talent-wise, Tatum acknowledged on the podcast that the young up-and-comers “wanted more.” Tatum, Brown, and Rozier realized how close the Celtics were the season before, Tatum said, and they were eager to be the ones to drive them toward that next step.

“We wanted to be the guys,” Tatum said. “Everybody was, I think, a little resistant, instead of, ‘No, we’re all playing for the same goal, we’re all going to get paid, we’re all going to be All-Stars or whatever, and I think life would just be better if we win a championship.’ I think everybody played a part in that. I know I did, for sure.”

He said everyone knew Irving was the best player at that point, but Tatum admitted he wanted to be the No. 2 option.

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“I take responsibility for some of those things,” Tatum said. “But just looking back on it, you know, especially the Warriors not even being full strength in the championship, you can’t help but think that could’ve been us.”

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