Boston Celtics

How Tatum has handled being ‘most scrutinized player' in playoffs

"They wouldn't talk about me if I wasn't good."

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Criticism comes with the territory in the NBA, especially as one of the league's superstars. While that includes Jayson Tatum, it's tough to ignore how much scrutiny he has faced throughout the Boston Celtics' 2024 playoff run.

Tatum's postseason play has been picked apart despite Boston losing just two games and the five-time All-Star averaging 26.0 points, 10.4 rebounds, and 5.9 assists in that span. He has overcome his inefficient shooting nights with elite rebounding, outstanding playmaking, and rock-solid defense.

Ripping his performance is one thing, but the discourse became absurd when ESPN's Get Up! questioned whether Tatum was happy to see teammate Jaylen Brown earn the Eastern Conference Finals MVP honor. They debated the topic despite Tatum's all-smiles reaction to Brown hoisting the Larry Bird Trophy.

During NBA Finals Media Day on Wednesday, Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe told Tatum he's been "the most scrutinized player" in the postseason.

"You think so?" Tatum answered with a smirk.

Washburn went on to ask Tatum how he has dealt with the scrutiny.

"I think more so than me, it's like, my mom, my grandma, my family and friends. They're more bothered by it than me," Tatum said. "And I understand. Like, if (my son) Deuce was to make it to the NBA and people were talking about him every single day, as a parent I wouldn't be able to separate the superstar from the child. So, my mom took it a little tougher than maybe I did.

"But for me, I don't take it personal. This is a long break without NBA basketball, so they have to overanalyze every little thing and have something to talk about. Did it get old? Yeah. But, you know, it's the Finals. They wouldn't talk about me if I wasn't good. So, try to take some positives out of it and change the channel.''

It's a level-headed take from Tatum, who can expect the criticism to persist for as long as it takes for Boston to bring home Banner 18. Even then, his detractors will find ways to poke holes in his accomplishments for as long as he remains one of the faces of the league.

Tatum and the C's will look to ignore the noise and take care of business against the Dallas Mavericks when the Finals begin Thursday night at TD Garden. Tip-off is set for 8:30 p.m. ET.

Coverage for Game 1 begins at 7 p.m. ET with Celtics Pregame Live right here on NBC Sports Boston.

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