Celtics' Jayson Tatum Says He's Still Dealing with After-Effects from COVID-19

Tim Daniels@@TimDanielsBRFeatured Columnist IVApril 14, 2021

PORTLAND, OREGON - APRIL 13: Jayson Tatum #0 of the Boston Celtics handles the ball in the first quarter against the Portland Trail Blazers at Moda Center on April 13, 2021 in Portland, Oregon. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images)
Abbie Parr/Getty Images

Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum said Tuesday he's "close" to full strength but hasn't completely recovered since being diagnosed with COVID-19 in early January.

"It's a process. It takes a long time," Tatum told reporters. "I take an inhaler before the game since I've tested positive. This has kind of helped with that and opened up my lungs, and, you know, I never took an inhaler before. So that's something different. I for sure feel better now than I did a month ago."

The 23-year-old two-time All-Star, who scored a game-high 32 points in the Celtics' 116-115 win over the Portland Trail Blazers, explained he'll continue to use the inhaler for the foreseeable future.

"There's no exact timetable," Tatum said. "[It's] just when I feel comfortable enough and I think I don't need it."

Tatum has been on a roll since the calendar flipped to April. He's averaging 29.4 points, 8.6 rebounds, 3.7 threes and 3.4 assists while shooting 51.1 percent from the field, including 41.3 percent from beyond the arc.

His improved play is a major reason the Celtics, who've been stuck in neutral much of the season, are finally starting to pick up some momentum with a 6-1 record this month and four straight wins.

It's closer to what was expected coming into the season when Boston was viewed as a top contender in the Eastern Conference, a destiny it could still fulfill if it can build off its recent form. Tatum agrees:

"I don't think our record shows what kind of team that we are. I think even though it's been a weird year, obviously we've dealt with some, excuse me, a bunch of things obviously. Stuff, a lot of guys tested positive, certain guys have been injured. But you know right now for the most part, we're missing Evan [Fournier]. But most of the guys, they're healthy. I just like the way that we're playing. Every game is important right now, and we know it's kind of coming down to the stretch.

"Obviously, we want to win. But I think for myself, us, playing the right way and feeling good about ourselves. We're not going to win every game, but I think we're playing the right way and we're for sure trending in the right direction."

The Celtics have moved up to fifth in the East with a 29-26 record, a key distinction as they try to avoid the play-in tournament that'll encompass the Nos. 7 through 10 seeds in the conference.

While earning one of the East's top seeds is a long shot with the Brooklyn Nets and Philadelphia 76ers tied at the top with matching 37-17 records, 8.5 games ahead of the C's, Boston is only one game behind the Atlanta Hawks (30-25) for fourth and home-court advantage in the first round.

Guard Marcus Smart explained there's still plenty of work to do despite the recent surge:

"We're not excited, we're not complacent, we're not content with it. It's a start, beginning of what we know we have to do. We dug ourselves a hole. We know we have to continue to fight, but it's encouraging. We use that as momentum to build off and on to the next game and try to bring that same energy with these wins to the next game. And that's really our spirit. We're not too high on the highs, and we're not too low on the lows."

The Celtics are back on the floor Thursday night when visit Staples Center to face off with the reigning champion Los Angeles Lakers (34-21), who remain without superstars LeBron James and Anthony Davis because of injuries.