Boston Celtics star Jayson Tatum will have to wait for the playoffs to detach himself from one harmful narrative that’s both misleading and disingenuous.

Tatum, who’s been through the heartbreak of losing in the NBA Finals and crumbling to a No. 8-seeded Miami Heat team in the Eastern Conference finals last season, has been the outsider’s hot seat. Despite putting personal accolades in the backseat and leading the Celtics to an NBA-leading 45 wins through 57 games, Tatum still can’t get his flowers. It’s even gotten to a point where ex-Golden State Warriors general manager Bob Myers (clearly) erased Tatum’s entire postseason past from his memory.

“In a series in the East, can Jayson Tatum outplay Jimmy Butler? Can he outplay Giannis Antetokounmpo? Can he outplay Joel Embiid? A healthy Joel Embiid,” Myers said Saturday on ESPN’s “NBA Countdown” before Boston’s matchup with the New York Knicks.

The problem with Myers’ assessment of Tatum is simple: he’s already outplayed each individual in a handful of instances throughout his career. Granted, the end result hasn’t been the Celtics dominating Miami in the conference finals or toying with Antetokounmpo and the Bucks, but that’s a two-sided coin. Two seasons ago, Tatum and Boston came back from a 3-2 deficit in the semifinal round to eliminate Milwaukee in seven games. And last season, Tatum again put the Philadelphia 76ers to shame — also overcoming a 3-2 series deficit in the playoffs, scoring 51 points in Game 7.

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Let’s consider the numbers before tossing Tatum under the bus:

Tatum vs. Heat (20 playoff matchups)
— 25.6 points, 9.4 rebounds, 5.8 assists

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Tatum vs. Bucks (19 playoff matchups)
— 19 points, 6.3 rebounds, 3.7 assists

Tatum vs. 76ers (16 playoff matchups)
— 26.8 points, 8.4 rebounds, 3.8 assists

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Sure, the argument can be made that Tatum and the Celtics have underachieved in recent seasons, but where has Embiid led the 76ers? Antetokounmpo, with four more seasons of NBA service time than Tatum, has won once. And Butler, who’s heroically carried Miami, reaches the Finals just to fall short of the finish line.

Those aren’t proven winners who’ve posed the same LeBron James-like threat years ago with the Cleveland Cavaliers. The East is up for grabs and that’s not limited to the No. 1 seed either. If Tatum and the Celtics have anything in common with Embid, Antetokounmpo and Butler, it’s that they can all be beaten — and it’s been proven. The difference is that Tatum’s failures are the most magnified this season due to Boston’s offseason efforts of rebuilding the roster for a no-excuses run at Banner 18.

So far, so good in Boston and Tatum’s not losing focus on the ultimate goal.

“I’m very confident because I know how hard I’ve worked. I know how much I’ve put into this game and I know how badly I want to be one of the best, how badly I want to win,” Tatum told ESPN’s Malika Andrews at All-Star weekend. “Why wouldn’t I be confident? I know how hard I’ve worked. I want to be a winner. I want to win.”

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Tatum and the Celtics will likely need to cross paths with one (or several) among the 76ers, Bucks and Heat trio in order to reach that mountaintop and raise Boston’s first banner in 16 years.

Featured image via Brad Penner/USA TODAY Sports Images