Boston Celtics

Tatum's take on Celtics' mindset is a great sign entering playoffs

"Everybody on our team is in a perfect place in their career."

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The Boston Celtics have the NBA's best record by a wide margin. Their roster is incredibly deep, and they're the only team in the league with a top-three offensive rating and defensive rating.

So, whether they can raise Banner 18 may come down to mindset -- and Jayson Tatum believes that piece is in place, as well.

The Celtics star joined the NBA on TNT studio show Tuesday night and gave a revealing answer when asked how his team is staying focused down the stretch with the Eastern Conference's No. 1 seed already clinched.

"Experience is the best teacher," Tatum said. "The last three years, being that close and not getting over the hump obviously is extremely tough.

"I think everybody on our team is in a perfect place in their career. We've all accomplished individual things, everybody's gotten paid. The last thing for most of us, except for Jrue Holiday: We all are trying get over that hump. And I think we have the right group, the right mindset to do those things.

"Obviously we still have to do it, stay healthy, continue play the right way, but our mindset is where it needs to be."

The Celtics have reached at least the Eastern Conference Finals in three of the last four seasons, falling to the Miami Heat in Game 7 of the East Finals last year and reaching the NBA Finals in 2022 before losing to the Golden State Warriors in six games. Tatum has been on record discussing how those deep playoff runs (and shortcomings) have motivated and fueled the Celtics, but his point about Boston players being in the "perfect place" in their careers is well-taken.

Tatum is eligible for a contract extension this summer. Fellow All-Star Jaylen Brown already got a lucrative long-term deal. Aside from Jrue Holiday, who becomes extension-eligible after April 1, most of Boston's core is under contract through at least next season, and they all appear to be motivated not by personal or financial gain but by "getting over the hump" and winning a championship.

That's a testament to both Celtics president of basketball operations Brad Stevens for constructing this roster and head coach Joe Mazzulla for ensuring his players are focused on the right things. It's also a testament to Tatum and Brown, who are the unquestioned leaders on this team following Marcus Smart's offseason trade and appear singularly focused ahead of the 2024 playoffs.

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