Jayson Tatum became a different player after being named to the All-Star game on January 30th for the first time in his career. An Eastern Conference Player of the Month honor in February made the transformation from an All-Star to a franchise cornerstone happening ahead of schedule.
"It was like the weight of the world was lifted off my shoulders when I found out," Tatum said on the Good and Plenty Podcast about his All-Star honor. "Ever since then I’ve just played a lot more relaxed and a lot more free, and I think that had a lot to do with it."
The numbers back up that declaration for the 2017 No. 3 overall pick but there was a pretty important piece of the puzzle missing in February and March as well as Tatum’s breakout accelerated. Kemba Walker was a shell of himself on the court.
In fact, the All-Star point guard did not shoot over 40 percent from the final in his final 10 appearances of the season that coincided with Tatum’s leap. Those struggles led to the two players scoring just 20+ points in the same game over the final two months of the season (18 appearances). That reality has been a thorn in the side of Walker since the season ended.
“Since he’s been killing it the way he’s been,” Walker said.”I haven’t really been able to help out like I really wanted to, so yeah, I’m definitely looking forward to coming back and making an impact on my teammates and just being readier than I was before the season ended.”
The encouraging news for the Celtics as Walker works his way towards a return to full participation in on-court action next week is that even having Tatum on the floor paired with Walker has been a huge plus for the team despite the point guard’s struggles.
The Walker/Tatum duo had a +13.2 net rating together on the floor over February and March, with a sensational