Chris Mannix: Jayson Tatum Solely Focused on a 2023 Celtics Championship

Mannix: Tatum had clear shift in focus during offseason originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

Jayson Tatum has made one thing clear throughout the offseason: The crushing feeling of an NBA Finals loss is something he hopes to never have to feel again.

“I was exhausted,” the Boston Celtics star told Chris Mannix in a recent cover story for Sports Illustrated. “Didn’t feel like talking to anybody. Didn’t feel like being bothered. It’s hard to explain if you have never been in that situation. But losing a championship was f---ing miserable.”

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With the devastating defeat behind him, Tatum has turned the page to a pivotal 2022-23 NBA season. One in which the Boston Celtics are out to prove last year's incredible run was no fluke.

C's fans may notice a different Tatum once the regular season begins on Oct. 18. The 24-year-old took a different approach to working on his game this past offseason with his only focus being raising Banner 18 into the TD Garden rafters.

Mannix expanded on his conversation with Tatum during Wednesday's Early Edition.

"I spent a few weeks before that talking to people that were close to Tatum. And they did describe a shift in him, a change that they've seen from previous offseasons," Mannix said. "A guy that went from kind of focused on a few different things to focused on one thing, and that's finding a way to get his team to a championship level.

"That meant improving his own game, so he targeted very specific things. He targeted ways to get to the free-throw line more when he goes to the basket. He worked with Kevin Durant this offseason, we all saw those pictures online. But when he was working with Durant, one of the things they worked on extensively was how Durant was able to protect the basketball so well. We know Tatum had 100 turnovers in the playoffs last year. That was a point of emphasis for him this offseason. He went into the summer really locked in on finding his weaknesses and shoring each one of them up."

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Turnovers ultimately were what cost the Celtics a championship. While Tatum certainly deserves some of the blame -- he had 23 turnovers in the Finals -- the entire team struggled in that category. Boston lost the ball a whopping 97 times in the six games.

While he worked over the offseason on ball security and other facets of his game, Tatum remained focused on putting the team's success above his own. He and teammate Jaylen Brown recently told our Chris Forsberg they would trade their individual accolades for an NBA title. That's a significant mindset shift from last season.

"I reported this around February of last year that when Tatum started to get it rolling, he actually called Joel Embiid and said to him, 'You better get the MVP this year, because I'm getting it next year.' This summer, after the Finals experience, it wasn't anything about that," Mannix said.

"It was all about team wins. Tatum played a lot of 5-on-5 with different people over the offseason. He made sure that his teams never lost. He was entirely focused on winning games, not about putting up his numbers."

The journey begins Tuesday at TD Garden. Tip-off for the Opening Night showdown vs. the Philadelphia 76ers is set for 7:30 p.m. ET.

Watch the full "Early Edition" segment with Mannix below:

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