Jayson Tatum never lost confidence in the Boston Celtics amid the team’s first-half struggles during the 2021-22 season. And now, despite the organization facing a much different challenge given the suspension of head coach Ime Udoka, the First Team All-NBA talent is not wavering in his expectations.
“Can we? Do I believe that? Absolutely. Absolutely I believe that,” Tatum responded during Celtics media day Monday when asked if he thinks Boston still is capable of competing. “And I think everybody else does in that locker room as well.”
Tatum and the Celtics now have the benefit of being there before. It’s an experience he and other teammates are hoping they can use as they get started this season against an Eastern Conference that has improved elsewhere.
“The biggest thing, you know, it’s hard getting there. We had two seven-game series that easily could have went the other way and we could have not been in the championship,” Tatum said. “So, never want to take anything for granted. And I think coming into this season, realizing that it’s not as easy as just saying, ‘We’re going to get back there,’ and ‘We got to play better.’ We got to start from day one, like everybody else, and it’s a process. We can’t skip any steps.”
Of course, the second half of the offseason wasn’t kind to the Celtics. After trading for Malcolm Brogdon and signing Danilo Gallinari, Boston’s outlook was then impacted by a season-ending injury to Gallinari, another surgery for Robert Williams and the stunning developments resulting in the suspension of Udoka. Udoka was suspended due to violations of the team’s policy, according to the team, likely stemming from an improper yet consensual relationship with a female staffer. The details which have since surfaced regarding the Udoka situation are troubling, and it undoubtedly cast a cloud over the team on media day.
Still, Tatum and company remain confident in the 2022-23 edition of the Celtics, who remain among the favorites to win the NBA championship. They’ll set out to prove that confidence is well-warranted as they open their season in less than three weeks.