The Boston Celtics haven't been able to live up to expectations this season. They have plenty of ups and downs, struggles with injuries, and over some stretches, it seems like they've flat out given up.
Needless to say, that has taken a toll on Jayson Tatum's public image, as people have heavily criticized him for not being able to carry the load and lead his team as they expected him to do so.
That's why former Celtics player Cedric Maxwell recently sounded off at his haters, claiming that it's just too early in his career to call him out because not even Michael Jordan won right away:
“Michael Jordan’s arguably one of the greatest players to ever play the game,” Maxwell said, as quoted by Essentially Sports. “But, how long did it take him to win? He didn’t win immediately when he came in and people had dubbed him for a while as a guy who couldn’t win it. They said, “He’s individual but he doesn’t make guys around him better” and then all of a sudden he’s the greatest, now, since he made guys around him better. Can Tatum or Brown do that?”
Let's also not forget that Tatum was sidelined for multiple weeks after suffering from COVID-19, and he's admitted that it's taken a toll on his conditioning, especially late in games:
“There’s a legion of guys out there that are not fond of Jayson Tatum and what he’s done so far this year. I’ve said before, we don’t know how COVID’s affected Jayson Tatum because there was one game in particular where he said, 'I was playing against Washington and I couldn’t breathe,'” added Maxwell.
Maxwell also added that people are questioning whether Tatum is a leader or a franchise player or not when he's just 22 years old and in his fourth season in the NBA:
“It went on from that to, 'Jayson Tatum’s not a leader, Tatum’s not this, Brown’s not that,' and it’s like, calm down. How old is he? He’s just really learning to play the game at a professional level and now you give him all the keys to the castle, and you just expect him to know it just like that. It was so much noise surrounding what they’ve done and what they have not done," he concluded.
Cedric Maxwell actually has a great point. We're talking about a 22-year-old that's already dealing with the responsibility of leading a historical franchise like the Celtics.
And even if they're not exactly contenders right now, Tatum shouldn't be the one to blame, as he's averaging 25.7 points per game to go along with 7.1 rebounds, 4.2 assists (all career-highs), 1.3 steals, and 2.9 three-pointers per game on 45% from the floor.