BOSTON — Jayson Tatum has juggled the challenge of being a leader for the Celtics while keeping the team poised throughout the postseason, and while being bombarded with criticism left and right.

None of it has impacted Boston’s postseason hunt as the team punched its ticket to the NBA Finals after sweeping the Pacers in the Eastern Conference finals. However, the constant outside noise, while not affecting Tatum directly, does impact those around the 26-year-old preparing for a winner-take-all showdown with the Mavericks.

“My mom took it a little tougher than maybe I did,” Tatum said during Wednesday’s NBA Finals media day. “But for me, I don’t take it personal, right? Just a long break without NBA basketball, so they had to overanalyze every little thing, 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.”

During Tatum’s first trip to the Finals in 2022, the Celtics star dealt with a wrist injury that (clearly) impacted his performance. Last year, after Boston battled back from an 0-3 deficit against the Heat in the conference finals, Tatum suffered an ankle injury, directing the Celtics straight to playoff elimination in Game 7.

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The memories of watching Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and the Warriors celebrate on a confetti-plastered TD Garden court two years ago still linger in Tatum’s mind, even with a clean slate against Dallas.

“I hate that I had to go through it,” Tatum explained. “I wish we would have won. But I’m a firm believer in everything happens for a reason. There’s a lesson to be learned in every situation.”

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But even with an optimistic perspective following a crushing defeat and a second chance at glory on the final stage, Tatum can’t catch a break. The narratives surrounding Boston’s 12-2 postseason run — without Kristaps Porzingis for two full rounds — haven’t directed a focus toward everything the Celtics have done right. Instead, the discourse has surrounded Tatum’s offensive shortcomings, highlighting the six-time All-Star’s 29% shooting from 3-point territory this postseason and the facial expression following Jaylen Brown’s conference MVP reception in Indiana.

The opportunity to pile on Tatum, whether it’d be from Boston benefitting from injuries throughout each of its first three playoff matchups leading into the Finals or the teammate bail-outs, has been capitalized on.

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Brown, a recipient of that exact treatment on multiple occasions throughout his eight-year career, can relate to everything Tatum’s endured thus far.

“You get scrutinized enough for a large part of your career, it becomes normal,” Brown said Wednesday. “Then it just rolls off you. For me, at least, I can say. I don’t know if Jayson feels the same way. It’s kind of been that my whole career in a sense. Just being booed when you were drafted to saying you were overpaid, saying you were overpaid again. It’s been that the whole journey for me.”

If Tatum and Brown can push the Celtics across the finish line past the Mavericks, there won’t be anything left to say — until next season at least.

Featured image via Peter Casey/USA TODAY Sports Images