Sports News Without Fear, Favor or Compromise
Sports News Without Fear, Favor or Compromise

Jayson Tatum looks like his pre-COVID self again, but he’s not “cured” — he now has to use an inhaler

Boston’s Jayson Tatum may look like his old self, but he says he’s still suffering the effects of COVID.
Boston’s Jayson Tatum may look like his old self, but he says he’s still suffering the effects of COVID.
Image: Getty Images

In case you’ve forgotten, Jayson Tatum is here to remind you that we’re still in a pandemic.

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Four days after dropping a career-high 53 points, Tatum scored 25 second-half points en route to a Boston Celtics 116-115 road victory over the Portland Trail Blazers late last night.

And following the game, Tatum — who dealt with COVID-19 in January and was sidelined for two weeks, missing just five games in the process because the Celtics endured multiple cancelations — reassured us that he hasn’t been the same since before contracting the disease. Tatum told reporters he still uses an inhaler, as if he had asthma, which he never had to do before experiencing COVID.

Even while playing in February, Tatum said that he had still been feeling the effects of the disease. It wasn’t until fairly recently that Tatum’s numbers began mirroring his early-season outbursts either. Tatum’s last game before getting COVID was played on January 8, his tenth game of the current 2020-21 season. By then, he had been averaging 26.9 points, 7.1 rebounds and 3.8 assists per game on 47/44/89 shooting splits, leading a Celtic team that began the season 7-3 before Kemba Walker even played a game.

In basically his first month back, an 18-game span from January 25-February 26, Tatum’s production dropped to 24 points, 6.8 rebounds, and 4.8 assists during that stretch on 41/33/86 shooting, and of those 18 games, the Celtics won the same amount of games as they did during their first 10: Seven.

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Since then, Tatum is pretty much all the way back at 26.7 points, 7.3 rebounds, and 3.9 assists during his last 20 games, while shooting 49/39/89. The Celtics are also 12-8 in those 20 games, which doesn’t include a loss in a March 22 game that Tatum missed.

So, while Tatum is nearing a return to his full form, his acknowledging that he isn’t yet 100 percent is key. Tatum is of the demographic that supposedly “doesn’t get affected” by COVID — an insanely fit (compared to many of us) 23-year-old (22 when he contracted COVID) professional athlete who is supposed to just return to the NBA as if nothing happened. A small bump on the road to a possible championship.

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Moreover, we still don’t know the long-term effects of the disease, because, societally, we’re still trying to overcome it and get everyone vaccinated more than a year since its onset.

But lest you think COVID either kills you or doesn’t affect you, let Tatum remind you that the pool of nuance in-between those extremes is larger and deeper than the Pacific Ocean.