Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum evidently did not grow taller during an abbreviated offseason. But, in trying to explain the actual changes to his physical appearance, Tatum suggested Wednesday that he’s added 10 pounds of muscle.
“Getting older, my body is starting to mature a little bit more. I’m not 19 anymore,” said Tatum, delivering a bold-face lie about his age that will make it hard for some to believe that he didn’t actually sprout two inches over the past 70 days. Tatum acknowledged on social media recently that he’s now in his fourth year as a 19-year-old.
Long-running gags about Tall Tatum and his age aside, it’s clear his frame has filled out recently, an important development for a player who can benefit from more grown-man strength when attacking the basket.
After Brad Stevens shot down the, ahem, tall tale about Tatum’s height, Tatum fielded a question about his increased bulk during a session with reporters on Wednesday afternoon, all while pondering the notion of him evolving into a superstar in the league.
"I don’t really know what that means — what makes someone a superstar?” said Tatum. "I guess that’s for other people to decide if you are or if you aren’t. I don’t really get caught up into technically being a superstar. I just feel like each year I want to improve, I want to get better. I don’t put a ceiling on where I’m trying to get to. I want to be one of the best. I want to be one of the best to play this game. I want to be one of the best in the game.
"So I don’t think that now I feel different. Every year I take the approach that I just want to be better than I was last year. And, yeah, I’ve gained probably about 10 pounds so I think that’s just obviously been in the weight room.”
Tatum missed nine of the 13 shots he took in Boston’s preseason opener on Tuesday night in Philadelphia. He finished with 10 points in 22 minutes.
After his breakout last season while elevating to All-NBA status, and with Kemba Walker sidelined to start the year, much of the preseason buzz around the Celtics has focused on Tatum stepping into the superstar spotlight. He admitted he’s still adapting to being the focal point of opposing teams' scouting reports and learning how to utilize that attention to get his teammates opportunities.
"I think it just has to elevate my playmaking ability,” said Tatum, who displayed improved playmaking ability during Boston’s postseason run in the bubble. "I kind of felt like it was trending that way during the playoffs, just seeing a lot more attention, a lot more double teams, blitzing, and just my ability to make plays and make the game easier for the guys around me. So just being more of a playmaker, getting other guys involved.”
The Celtics play their final preseason game on Friday night against the Brooklyn Nets. Tatum wasn’t the only one to beef up this offseason — so did the entire Eastern Conference — but Tatum stressed that Boston’s focus is building on the success of last season.
"Just understanding what happened last season, and just knowing how close we were to getting to the Finals,” said Tatum. “Just continuing to build off what we have accomplished and knowing how much better we have to be individually and as a group to get over that hump and get a championship.”