Kemba Walker may have been the one Celtics player to start in the 2020 NBA All-Star Game, but by the time the NBA went on hiatus, Boston had become Jayson Tatum’s team. It took some time for the forward to take over, though.
Tatum had shown some improvements early in 2019-20, but he still wasn’t quite at the level he needed to be. As the season progressed, however, he got more comfortable each day. Then he was named a 2020 NBA All-Star and everything changed.
And this change wasn’t just visible to everyone watching. Tatum felt it.
During an appearance on CLNS’s “Good ‘N Plenty” podcast, the Celtics star said he was putting additional pressure on himself. To the point where he looked at each game as a do-or-die when it came to making the 2020 All-Star Game.
“Early in the season, I put so much pressure on myself and mentally. Obviously, I wanted to win. I wanted us to be a really good team, but I also thought about making All-Star Game every, every day. And every time I had a bad game, I remember I would text (skills coach) Drew (Hanlen) and I'd be like, ‘Drew, I don't think I'm going to make it anymore.’ He’d be like, ‘Bro, relax.’ And then, when I would have a good game, I’d be like, ‘Bro, I think I'm gonna make it.’ And I remember when I went 1-for-18 (against Dallas) I was like, ‘Everybody’s just gonna think about this one, I'm just, I'm not gonna make it.’”
But then Tatum got the nod he’d been waiting for.
“And it was like the weight of the world was lifted off of my shoulders when I found out (the All-Star results),” he said. “You know, kind of ever since then I just played a lot more relaxed and a lot more free(ly). And I think that had a lot to do with (it).”