Don’t expect me to sit here and cry about the Boston Celtics’ Game 7 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Being one win from the NBA Finals and then losing at home, that hurts. But considering the circumstances, I’m more than willing to tip my cap to LeBron James and move on.
The Celtics were without their best player in Kyrie Irving, and they were eliminated by the best player in the world in James. It could’ve been much worse for the C’s. They could’ve been eliminated in the first round by the Greek Freak, or they could’ve lost to Joel Embiid and the Philadelphia 76ers in the second round. Instead, they kept battling, and gave everyone in Boston a reason to smile when thinking about the future of the team.
And those smiles get no bigger than when thinking about what’s to come for Jayson Tatum.
I don’t care if you were on-board with Danny Ainge trading out of No. 1 overall and taking Tatum at No. 3, there’s no way you expected Tatum to be this good, this soon.
I, for one, didn’t have a good feeling about passing up on Markelle Fultz. Right now, that opinion looks silly, as Fultz’ shot is all messed up and Tatum just nearly led his team to the NBA Finals. But I should make it clear that I never thought Tatum would be a bad player. I was just really high on Fultz, and, well, mostly everybody around the league was too.
Fultz might turn out to be a very good player one day. But even if he becomes an All Star, the verdict is in: Ainge got that one right.
And boy am I happy he did. Because Tatum is a superstar. Not a star, not an All Star. A Superstar.
Tatum turned 20 years old in March. He started in all 19 playoff games for the Celtics this year. And he finished those playoffs as the team’s leading scorer, averaging 18.5 points per game.
For many around the NBA right now, the spotlight is on James making his eighth straight NBA Finals appearance, and where he stands in the “GOAT” debate. But the biggest takeaway from these playoffs is that the NBA’s next superstar was born in Tatum.
There was no fear. He played with the poise of a 10-year veteran when the lights were at their brightest. He had some rookie moments that were mostly displayed through poor body language, but it never took him long to bounce back. And when he dunked on James in Game 7, the kid’s stare down of the King, afterwards, sent a clear message.
Tatum is coming for the throne. And he’s capable of taking it.
Not right at this moment, obviously, because the Celtics’ season is over. But in a league that’s about to witness the same two teams battle in the Finals for the fourth straight year, perhaps the only thing we learned this season was that the league’s next big thing is in Boston.
When Irving re-emerges next year, the Celtics will be a popular pick to win the East, especially if James leaves Cleveland and heads to the Western Conference, which has been rumored for a while. Combine that with the return of Gordon Hayward, and this Celtics group is ready for a championship run as soon as 2019.
And if they get there, Tatum will be a major reason why.
So don’t cry over that Game 7 loss to the Cavs while you’re watching this year’s Finals. Because next year, the Celtics will be representing the East.
And it’ll be Tatum who’ll have Mark Jackson yelling, “Mama, there goes that man.”
Listen to “The Danny Picard Show” at dannypicard.com. Follow him on Twitter @DannyPicard.