Jayson Tatum's historic night could have aftershocks for Celtics

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Chris Forsberg
·6 min read
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Forsberg: How Tatum's record night could impact C's long-term originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

Jayson Tatum’s historic night — matching Larry Bird’s franchise record of 60 points while sparking a 32-point comeback against the San Antonio Spurs — could have some long-term financial repercussions for the player and team.

Tatum’s late-season surge is slowly cementing his once-tenuous spot on an All-NBA team, which would escalate the overall value of the five-year, maximum-salary extension he inked in November.

Tatum’s deal guarantees him a starting salary at 25 percent of next year’s salary cap and is projected at roughly $163 million. By making his second consecutive All-NBA team, the total value of the deal could jump to roughly $195 million depending on the final cap number.

Mitchell, Beal among NBA stars in awe of Tatum's 60-point game

Tatum’s spot is still not a slam dunk but injuries should help him muscle into one of six available forward slots. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Julius Randle, Kawhi Leonard and Paul George are top candidates for the All-NBA first and second teams. Extended absences could squeeze out All-NBA stalwarts like LeBron James and Kevin Durant, which would open the door for younger players like Tatum and Zion Williamson to land those spots.

Seeing green?

Tatum's annual salary on current extension

$32.6M

Tatum's potential annual salary w/ All-NBA nod

$39M

Variation

Double

Tatum and Jimmy Butler landed on the All-NBA third team last season.

The salary bump would keep Tatum among the league’s most well-compensated players deep into the future as his salary climbs over $40 million per season. That's important considering he holds a final-year option, though salaries could be even more outrageous by that point. Tatum will still only be 27 years old after the fourth year of the extension and well-positioned for another monster payday.

The Celtics will gladly deal with the extra financial hardships that come with Tatum’s pay raise, with the All-NBA escalator pushing their luxury tax bill higher. It’s a worthy splurge for a player who became the first Celtics player in franchise history to produce two 50-plus point games in the same season.

Heck, Tatum did it in the same month. And he’s only 23.

A handful of other takeaways after Tatum’s historic night:

Not giving up the ball

One of the crazier parts of Tatum’s stat line is a zero in the turnover column. The NBA’s tracking data had Tatum with a game-high 98 touches. He made 50 passes. Twenty of his 37 shots were contested. He attempted 14 shots on 16 drives at the basket, many of which took him into the teeth of the San Antonio defense.

And he didn’t cough up the ball once.

It’s even more impressive because the typically surehanded Tatum had struggled a bit with ball security in recent games. He had 22 turnovers in his last five games leading up to Friday’s performance.

He did eventually cough the ball up, but it came after the final buzzer when he delivered the game ball to his 3-year-old son, Deuce.

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A promise fulfilled

Having Deuce courtside for his historic night clearly resonated with Tatum. After erupting for 53 points in a win over Minnesota in early April, Tatum fretted that Deuce wasn’t in attendance and had to settle for a postgame FaceTime call.

Tatum said he’d simply have to produce another big night with Deuce in attendance. And he did.

“I said I was going to do it again while Deuce is here,” Tatum said in his postgame walk-off interview with Deuce standing nearby. "I think that was the most special part.”

Jayson Tatum talks about his 60 point game

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He could have had 61

Tatum likely will lament a couple of missed free throws that could have gave him sole possession of Boston’s single-game scoring record. But the refs might have cost him a chance, too.

Tatum had a case for continuation on a last-second foul that would have given him 60 points and an and-one free throw to seek the record. Instead, the refs called the foul on the floor and he settled for making two pressure-packed freebies to seal his 60-point night.

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Tatum got to the line a whopping 17 times overall, his highest total of the season. He got there 16 times during his 53-point night. It's a reminder of his scoring potential when he relentlessly attacks the basket. In fact … 

Attack mode

Tatum’s 37 field goal attempts were nine more than his previous high this season. But in willing the Celtics back into this game, Tatum clearly determined that he had to bully his way to the hoop.

Those 16 drives tell you a bit about his aggressiveness. As does the fact that only seven of his shot attempts were beyond the 3-point arc.

Celtics coach Brad Stevens ought to frame Tatum’s shot plot from Friday.

NBA.com

The barrage of green circles around the basket is a reminder that Tatum shouldn’t settle for perimeter shots and tough fadeaways when he’s so elite at getting to the rim and finishing there. And the 17 free throws were an obvious reward for his aggressiveness, too.

A team effort

When an NBA player erupts for 60 points, it often feels like they dominated the game and that all the scoring ran through them. What was wild about Tatum’s historic night is that, while he certainly went into takeover mode in the fourth quarter, he still needed big contributions from his teammates to get to the finish line of a wild comeback.

The Celtics don’t win this game without rookie Aaron Nesmith’s energy and grit. They don’t win without Jaylen Brown shaking off his shooting woes and drilling a monster 3-pointer late in overtime. They don’t win without Robert Williams winning a crucial jump ball in the extra session. 

“A lot of big plays by a lot of different guys,” Tatum said.

He noted players asked themselves at halftime, “Who do we want to be?” The team was embarrassed by their latest head-shaking stretch of basketball while trailing by 29 at the intermission. 

But they turned what could have been another unsightly loss in a season filled with them into a momentum-building win.

“That was a tough one, man,” said Tatum. "I think that’s just what being a Celtic is all about. Never quitting, never giving up.”