Jayson Tatum has made tremendous strides over six NBA seasons, and we're not just talking about his play between the whistles.
While the Boston Celtics forward has blossomed into a perennial All-Star and All-NBA First-Teamer, he's also gotten more comfortable in his own skin, assuming more of a leadership role as veterans have departed and he and Jaylen Brown have emerged as the faces of the franchise.
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Tatum's leadership role may increase even more this season after Boston traded its longest-tenured (and most vocal) player, Marcus Smart, to the Memphis Grizzlies. The 25-year-old seems up for the task -- but also plans on staying true to himself.
"I'm never going to be Kevin Garnett,” Tatum told Jeff Goodman of The Messenger. "As much as people want me to be, that’s not who I am. The way I lead, the public may not ever see what I do."
"When I need to, I make sure my voice is heard and I do it in my own way. I’m not going to be out there jumping up and down screaming. That’s just not my personality.
"As much as people want to talk about it and want me to be that, I’m not changing who I am. I lead in my own way. When I talk, everybody in that organization is going to listen. And whatever I say is always for the betterment of the team — and my teammates know that."
Tatum described his leadership style as "reserved, quiet and laid back," which runs counter to the fierce intensity Garnett brought to the Celtics in 2007. But it sounds like Tatum is getting results by picking his spots and making it count when he delivers messages to teammates.
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Just as Tatum is growing into his leadership role, he also seems to be fully acclimating to Boston, telling Goodman he "just recently" started to feel a "connection" to his home since 2017.
"I have spent my adult life here, my son has grown up here, I’ve grown up here," Tatum told Goodman. "... I just feel like I relate more, a lot more in these last two years.
At first it was like I live here, but I’m from St. Louis. I’m a St. Louis kid. Now I’m a part of Boston. I really feel a connection with the city and the people of Boston."
Tatum's candid comments to Goodman -- he also stressed a desire to be on the "Mount Rushmore" of Celtics greats -- reflect a maturity that wasn't always there when he first entered the league. Tatum has developed into a well-rounded superstar, however, and can establish himself as a local legend by guiding the Celtics to Banner 18.