Celtics

Here’s why Jayson Tatum doesn’t believe Celtics’ opener vs. 76ers is ‘a statement’

"We’re not going to overreact if we win, if we lose. We can learn from both. It’s only one game."

Jayson Tatum
Jayson Tatum of the Boston Celtics dribbles the ball against Thaddeus Young of the Toronto Raptors. Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images

Jayson Tatum and the Celtics spent all offseason thinking about how the 2021-22 season ended — with the Warriors celebrating on the TD Garden floor after the Celtics bowed out of the NBA Finals in six games.

The subject is still a little bit sore. On Monday, one day before the Celtics start their quest for redemption, Tatum was asked if the first game of the season — Tuesday’s opener against the 76ers in Boston — is a statement game.

“It’s not a statement,” Tatum told reporters. “Obviously, we want to win every game we play. But we’re not going to overreact if we win, if we lose. We can learn from both. It’s only one game.

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“Yeah, we lost. There’s no secret. We talk about it like every day. It’s a relief to get out there and just play basketball and have a goal in mind. Obviously we’re trying to get to a championship. It starts with tomorrow, one game at a time.”

Tatum reportedly stopped communicating for a couple of weeks after the Finals. When he re-surfaced, his trainer Drew Hanlen told Sports Illustrated’s Chris Mannix he noticed a significant change in Tatum’s demeanor — the 24-year-old star became obsessed with winning.

“I was exhausted,” Tatum told Mannix. “Didn’t feel like talking to anybody. Didn’t feel like being bothered. It’s hard to explain if you have never been in that situation. But losing a championship was f—ing miserable.”

The Celtics now have much bigger goals than starting 1-0. Last year, they lost their opener to the Knicks and stumbled to a sub-.500 record for more than half of the season before turning things around. This year, they have constructed a team with a real shot at rectifying last season’s failures.

Whether or not the Celtics achieve their goals rests heavily on Tatum.

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“I think I have more experience, learning from that deep playoff run going to the Finals,” Tatum said. “That’s the benefit of that. I feel like our approach — coming into this year differently than I did last season. …

“I feel good. I think we had a really successful training camp. Obviously, we wish we had [Danilo Gallinari] and [Robert Williams] but the group that we’ve had, I’ve loved the way we’ve played our preseason games and I’ve loved the way we’ve practiced. I think everyone is jelling well together. The feel that we have out there, it feels good.”

That’s good news for the Celtics, of course, but Tatum might want to check his narrative with his interim head coach Joe Mazzulla.

“Every day is a statement,” Mazzulla said when he was asked a similar question. “That’s important to me.

“The guys have talked about it, we’ve talked about it. We have to take ownership of what we said. We’re not going to skip steps, and we have to treat every day with the utmost detail and the utmost approach in what we’re trying to accomplish. So I don’t really consider us former Eastern Conference champs anymore. It’s more about what we have to do now.”

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