Several factors contributed to Jayson Tatum’s decision to play with the Boston Celtics during the NBA’s restart to the season.
His desire to squash rumors that he was leery about being part of the league’s re-start amid concerns that it would impact his next contract which he’s eligible to sign at the end of this season.
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Tatum, who spoke to the media via conference call on Tuesday, repeatedly said his biggest concern about joining his teammates in Orlando was the amount of time he would be away from his two-year-old son Deuce.
“For me, just being away from my son for two or three months,” Tatum said. “That’s what’s really bothering me, knowing that he's only 2 and a half. Especially that young, their growth, they change every week. Just knowing I’m going to miss out on that … it’s been tough.”
But the 22-year-old acknowledged that the report that he was not going to play out of concern for his next contract, became something that weighed in his decision to be with the team in Orlando.
“I knew if I didn’t play with people not hearing why I wasn’t going to play, they would assume that I didn’t want to play because I didn’t want to risk losing out on that contract,” Tatum said.
But Tatum shot that theory down on Tuesday.
“That would be insensitive, especially during this time with so many people filed for unemployment, for me to be worried about 'X' amount of dollars,” Tatum said. “That didn’t have anything to do with whether I would play or not. For me, my main concern was being away from my son. That was what was most important to me, if I was or wasn’t going to play.”
As for the NBA taking steps towards establishing insurance for players such as Tatum if they were to be injured during the league’s re-start, that too was a non-factor in his decision.
“I guess without trying to get into too much detail, the agreement they came to didn’t really affect in a good or bad way, my decision,” he said.
While Tatum’s motivation to return to play may very well be centered around his family, there’s no mistaking that the potential for its impact on his next contract is very real.
Prior to the NBA being put on pause March 12, the day after Utah’s Rudy Gobert tested positive for the coronavirus, Tatum was one of the league’s best players.
After being named to his first All-Star team in February, Tatum put together a string of performances that put him in elite company even for a franchise as storied as the Boston Celtics.
Those strong performances, coupled with the team’s success, put Tatum in the conversation to be named to one of the All-NBA teams, which would then make him eligible for the “Derrick Rose” extension which means he could garner a salary equal to 30 percent of the NBA salary cap versus 25 percent currently.
Regardless, Tatum is in for a significant windfall financially — whether he decided to return to playing with his teammates in Orlando or not.