Jayson Tatum continues to make positive strides in his game for the Boston Celtics, and that has been evident since Jan. 1 when the C's have been one of the NBA's top teams.
Boston owns a 21-8 record, the ninth-best offensive rating (144.4) and the best defensive rating (102.7) in the league since the calendar flipped to 2022.
One of Tatum's best games of the season came Thursday night against Ja Morant and the red-hot Memphis Grizzlies. Tatum scored 37 points -- 21 of which came in the fourth quarter -- as the Celtics triumphed 120-107 in arguably their most impressive win of the 2021-22 campaign.
How has Tatum evolved his entire skill set on and off the court this season?
"As far as a leader, he's much more vocal," Celtics head coach Ime Udoka said Friday on ESPN show "NBA Today". "In the past, obviously, coming in as a younger player, his elite status had him up there right from the start, but he had a lot of veterans around him, so he's kinda picking and choosing his way. Now him and Jaylen (Brown), with the guys who have been gone over the last few years, they know it's their team.
"(He's) much more vocal, and then on the court he's a bucket. He can get 30 in his sleep. We've just tried to help him grow and expand his game. He's doing all the things he naturally does, but also becoming much more of a playmaker, a leader out there and getting everybody else involved."
Tatum is averaging a team-leading 26 points, along with a career-high 8.3 rebounds per game. He's also averaging 4.2 assists -- just below his career-high set last season. He was recently named an All-Star for the third consecutive year and made his first All-Star Game start in February.
The Celtics' resurgence has vaulted them from 10th place to fifth place in the Eastern Conference standings, and they sit just 2.5 games behind the rival Philadelphia 76ers for second place.
Sunday's showdown against the Brooklyn Nets with Kevin Durant expected to be back from injury is another tremendous test for Tatum and the surging Celtics. A huge win over the Nets would give this team a ton of confidence over the final month of the regular season.