Admission from Tatum on Feeling Pressure in the Finals and Desire to Enjoy the Moment

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BOSTON — Before his second NBA Finals appearance, Celtics player Jayson Tatum was questioned about the heightened pressure of playing for a team striving to secure its 18th championship this month.

In response, Tatum didn’t shy away from the subject.

“Indeed, you know the answer,” Tatum conveyed during his media session on Wednesday as part of the league’s media day. “Of course.

“In this organization, only NBA championship banners are hung, right? We have 17 of them. Some of the most legendary players in the history of the game have donned this jersey. We all feel privileged to follow in their footsteps, honoring the path they paved for us to realize our dreams.

“Ultimately, yes, if you aspire to be one of the greats in this jersey, every legend before you has secured a championship. That’s the goal we aim for every season. The expectations here are evidently distinct. It requires exceptional players to be here and be part of a setting like this.”

Tatum and the Celtics are well-versed in the pressures associated with playing for the team, particularly after making deep playoff runs consistently over recent years. Since 2017, the Celtics have reached the Eastern Conference finals on six occasions, now finding themselves in the league’s championship round for the second time in three years.

During these eight years, Boston has participated in more playoff games (126) than any other NBA team without clinching a championship, all while aiming to surpass their long-standing rival, the Los Angeles Lakers, and regain the lead in terms of total titles won.

Tatum, however, expressed his focus on staying in the present and savoring the journey rather than dwelling on future implications or the significance of winning a championship.

“Yes, truthfully, I don’t spend much time pondering what this may mean for me in the long run,” Tatum stated. “As simple as it sounds, I just strive to remain present, live in the moment, and enjoy it, right? Everyone keeps emphasizing pressure, pressure, pressure… It’s the NBA Finals. This experience is meant to be enjoyable.

“That’s my stance on it. I’m in the NBA Finals. I have a second chance to secure a championship. I want to relish it. I want to savor the moment, share it with my teammates and family.

“So, my sole focus is on that: competing at a high level, eagerly anticipating tomorrow’s game, and simply having fun. Just getting out there and engaging in what I love to do.”

In addition to Tatum, center Kristaps Porzingis will join the Celtics on the court, confirming his comeback in Game 1 of the NBA Finals after a calf strain sidelined him for over five weeks following Boston’s first-round series victory against the Miami Heat.

Porzingis, who has yet to play in a playoff match beyond the initial postseason round in his nine-year NBA career, voiced uncertainty about his physical conditioning heading into Game 1 post his extended absence.

“Yes, I think it’s still somewhat undecided,” Porzingis admitted. “It’s not entirely clear yet. I haven’t had ample time. We’ll see tomorrow night and take it from there.”

Following his return to practice on Friday, Porzingis mentioned maintaining a light workload leading up to the Finals and utilizing Kinesio tape on his lower right leg.

“I’ve been keeping things fairly light in recent days,” Porzingis remarked. “Simply preparing my body, focusing on recovery before the game to ensure I’m in peak condition for tomorrow. It’s been relatively light. Today will be another light day, and yeah, just gearing up for tomorrow.”

The Celtics have primed themselves for this moment over the years, following numerous deep playoff runs. They acquired Porzingis and Jrue Holiday last offseason to bolster their offensive versatility in the playoffs. Boston then recorded 64 wins in the regular season, accompanied by an impressive plus-11.7 net rating — showcasing a substantial disparity between the Celtics and the Oklahoma City Thunder in second place akin to that between the Thunder and the Indiana Pacers in 10th.

Subsequently, they dominated the Eastern Conference with a 12-2 record, swiftly dispatching the Heat, Cleveland Cavaliers, and Pacers in minimal games required — aided partly by injuries sidelining Jimmy Butler, Jarrett Allen, Donovan Mitchell, and Tyrese Haliburton.

Nevertheless, none of this progress will hold weight if the Celtics fail to seal the deal and triumph over Dallas in the playoffs.

“I believe this group is truly special,” mentioned Jaylen Brown. “I genuinely do. The core of the team has been together for a few years now. We’ve encountered the highs and lows, the successes and failures.

“I think to solidify our ultimate objective is to overcome challenges and emerge victorious. I believe that would significantly contribute to our legacy. But for now, that narrative remains unwritten.”

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