Al Horford knows a thing or two about getting “locked in” to a zone during the NBA season, something the 36-year-old center and sixteen-season veteran has proven time and time again during his tenure in the league. There’s even a moniker for Al’s clutch exploits, “Playoff Al,” though Al turning it up a notch isn’t just relegated to playoff games. It’s a quality that Horford has noticed in his teammate, four-time all-star and the leading scorer this season with 2,106 points: Jayson Tatum.
Tatum, who is dealing with a number of setbacks this season, including a wrist injury which may require surgery this offseason, and more recently, a left hip contusion as a result of a monster dunk over the Timberwolves’ Rudy Gobert, has also been durable and consistent, suiting up for 70 of the Celtics’ 76 games thus far. It’s that skill coupled with Tatum’s ability to “stay locked in” despite setbacks and nagging minor injuries that has impressed Horford most.
“It’s impressive; he’s mature beyond his years,” Horford explained to J.J. Redick and Tommy Alter on the “Old Man & The Three” podcast. “His demeanor does not change. He stays the same way. He’s putting in the work every day like he needs to. He’s taking care of his body. He’s doing everything he has to do to prepare. And he’s as consistent as they come. And to me, that’s impressive.”
Horford also expressed his appreciation for Tatum’s work ethic, especially for a player that’s still young and technically in the earlier stages of his career.
“Earlier in my career,” Horford continued, “when I was younger, you go through a stretch, and you get to feeling down on yourself, and maybe you don’t want to do everything you’ve been doing leading up to, and you’re trying to figure things out, and he’s not like that. He stays locked in. He wants to play every game if he possibly can, and he’s all about just continuing to work. He’s working. He’s trying to figure things out, and he’s figuring it out on the fly, so it’s pretty impressive to see how he handles himself.”
Are you, like Al Horford, impressed with Jayson Tatum’s ability to ‘stay locked in’ despite setbacks and injuries during the NBA season? Should Tatum be in MVP talks for this season? Let us know in the comments.