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Jayson Tatum reveals the secret behind his huge leap this season

Jayson Tatum, Boston celtics

Jayson Tatum arrived in the NBA with a splash after the Boston Celtics traded their would-be No. 1 pick to the Philadelphia 76ers, taking back the third overall selection as part of a trade bundle. Then a rookie out of Duke, the 6-foot-8 Tatum shot the lights out — a stout 47.5% from the floor and a blistering 43.4% from deep that had him destined to be one of the most efficient scorers in the league.

Yet his second season in the league came with his share of struggles. His all-around efficiency dipped, something that had a lot to do with his workouts with idol Kobe Bryant in the summer of 2018, which made him revert to an individualistic approach.

Tatum came back a renewed player after the Celtics traded Kyrie Irving, giving him the unique chance to become the team’s leading scorer in his third year.

“I had to prove myself to the outside world and to myself and show that I can be one of those top guys,” Tatum told Shams Charania of The Athletic. “I knew I wanted to be that guy. I knew I had that in me. But not making the All-Star game last year and not playing as well as I wanted to in the playoffs, our team not having the success …

“I felt like I put a lot of pressure on myself coming into the season with how last season finished.”

All of that turned around for Tatum in 2019, as the Duke product was quick off the horse, averaging 20-plus-points per game while playing next to newcomer Kemba Walker. Naturally, he made the All-Star team, crossing off one of the goals off his bucket list.

“Making the All-Star Game was very big for me, and once that was announced in January, I started to play better,” said Tatum. “It was a lot of freedom. I could play free. I was really consumed with that, with making the All-Star team, and maybe it was too much. Especially after every game, I was like, Damn, am I going to make it? Am I not? What if my chances are shot?

“Once I finally made that team, I could just play. My confidence got higher.”

Now primed to make that one of his many All-Star appearances, Tatum is putting up the best numbers of his postseason career, as the undefeated Celtics (6-0 playoffs) are now two wins away from punching a ticket into the Eastern Conference Finals.