There is no rest for Jayson Tatum | Olympic Games


Larry Bird once estimated that he had played the equivalent of two full seasons in playoff games in his relatively short 12 season career.

Bird was, naturally, on the money. By the time he played the final game of his NBA career in Richfield, Ohio on May 17, 1992, he had played 164 playoff games. By then – an inglorious sweep at the hands of the Cavs of Larry Nance/Mark Price/Brad Daugherty – Bird was battling chronic back pain that would keep him sidelined for most of the Olympics this summer- the. Like Kevin McHale, the end of Bird’s career was defined by a debilitating injury.

So even at this young age, Jayson Tatum needs to keep an eye out for wear. It’s not just that the 24-year-old Celtics star has crammed in 74 playoff games in five seasons. He has basically played the last two years without a break.

The slog began on July 31, 2020, when the Celtics returned from the NBA’s COVID-related shutdown to play eight regular season games and 17 playoff games in the Orlando bubble.

They were eliminated by Miami in the Eastern Conference Finals on September 27 and started the following season on December 23. The Celtics were swept in the first round by Brooklyn that year, and Tatum moved on to Olympic training camp and the eight-team USA. -game run to the gold medal in Japan.

Then came this season’s run to the Finals, with two wins in the seven-game series followed by a six-game loss to Golden State.

Going back to the Orlando bubble – a month before two full years – Tatum has played 199 games, including 46 playoff games. No wonder there was speculation, including from his coach, that Tatum and several of his teammates were suffering from fatigue.

So when Tatum looked to this summer, he had to relax first.

“It’s been a hell of a couple years of basketball,” said the man now tasked with getting Tatum ready for the start of training camp, longtime coach and fellow St. Louis native Drew Hanlen, founder of Pure Sweat Basketball. .

“After the final, he was able to give his body a break and mentally and emotionally gave his mind a break,” Hanlen said. “Now he’s back and starting to work on the areas that we think will help him take the next step. A guy who was All-NBA First Team, a guy who was an All-Star starter, a guy who was Eastern Conference MVP, and he’s 24 years old.

But that’s where Hanlen comes in, with a program.

The weight

Tatum credited his slow start last season to the fact that he showed up to training camp with 15 pounds of extra weight, particularly noticeable over his shoulders.

They won’t this time around, although there’s a tough balance between getting stronger and staying flexible.

“You need him to move well, you need him to stay lower which is all about flexibility, get stronger to prevent injury, while improving his cardio – that’s one thing. hard to throw in a blender and come out with the perfect smoothie,” says Hanlen.

“We thought he added too much weight last summer. We loved the strength he added, but we thought the weight was slowing him down a bit at the start of last season. he returned to the same playing weight, but that he continued to have the strength that he had developed, we thought that was a good place for his body. It’s not necessarily about bulking him up or He’s the one who continues to find the best combination of speed and size, a balance that players have to play with throughout their careers.

“The goal is to add strength. We are not worried about its weight. The goal is to be stronger while continuing to move better. Another big thing is the flexibility so he can play lower and still go harder, stay lower.

“Another thing is the cardio, so he can be in great shape with all the minutes they need to play. There’s a fine line, a weird line, not a black and white thing, because there’s so much moving parts.

Attack with more determination

Tatum’s extra strength means everything if he’s not only going to reach more of the line, but also the rim.

But he also needs to become more flexible, Hanlen said, staying low when necessary and attacking from better angles. Much of his work this month will be beating double teams and becoming a better playmaker.

Maybe then the calls will come and Tatum, like many of his teammates, won’t feel such a need to vent his annoyance when he doesn’t make the intended contact.

“We would like him to shoot more free throws, and some of the things that haven’t been canceled in the playoffs will hopefully be called out,” Hanlen said. “Our main goal is that if we improve his driving angles, if we focus on finishing instead of shooting fouls, it will actually lead to more trips to the line. That’s our focus – what we can control, i.e. better driving angles, more ball security, improved finishing. This will result in better rim numbers, fewer turnovers and more free throws.

Tatum averaged 4.2 turnovers in the 2022 playoffs — that number rose to a solid 5.0 in the last three games of the Finals — and beating double teams the right way would reverse that trend.

“But he still has a lot of room to grow. We like the improvement he’s made over the past two seasons,” Hanlen said. “I thought he had grown a lot as a playmaker this year. Next year our big goals are to be able to play by contact and finish by contact, and to return to constant use of the pull-up jumper as a weapon.

Hanlen has great resources on his client list, including Joel Embiid and Tatum’s longtime friend Bradley Beal, and can apply the lessons learned from those two to what Tatum is currently facing.

“I’ve seen it with many of my other clients. There’s no one who doubles up more in the league than Joel Embiid,” Hanlen said. “There are adjustments we’ve had to make to allow him to get good grips in different parts of the pitch, and changes to his cadences so there’s more unpredictability in his attack.

“I’ve seen it with Brad Beal in Washington where teams are really trying to get the ball out of his hands, especially in pick-and-rolls, so we had to move the pick-and-roll screens higher. and play him further off the ball and do more dribbling transfers instead of straight ball screens.

“Really, I’m just equipping Jayson with all the knowledge I’ve learned from my other clients, dealing with all the attacks he’s seen. I think Jayson reacted well and handled double teams well. , and as it gets more reps, it will continue to improve its decision-making.

short window

Tatum’s short offseason — from blocking photos of his elated campers this month to hanging out with Jay-Z at NYC’s Point Gods New York premier — reveals a young star who appears to be remarkably relaxed.

It was also the Tatum who returned to the gym in early August, refocused on work.

“Jayson doesn’t change. He just puts his head down and works,” Hanlen said. “He dove on LeBron (James) and took him to Game 7 of his rookie season, and got back to work. He’s made the All-NBA First Team and he’s coming back to work. That’s what he’s done his whole career.

“He’s just gotten back to the rhythm of things, but it will be his normal routine – training, lifting weights, on the court, getting treatment and shooting at night. It’s the routine that has worked very well for the whole his career.

And while June’s bitter taste remains, Tatum also knows that having put 74 playoff games under his belt after just five seasons, he can almost feel the touch of that first championship ring.

“I don’t want to speak for him except he was obviously disappointed because they passed up a great opportunity,” Hanlen said. “It also added more fuel to the fire because he was so close. He saw it. It was right in front of him. Now you know it’s not only realistic, but it’s closer than you think.

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