Celtics forward Jayson Tatum was thankful that after he contracted COVID-19 last month, his most troublesome symptoms did not persist. His fever, chills, and body aches lasted just over a day.
After he was sidelined for 16 days, he looked no worse for wear when he returned Jan. 25 and scored 24 points in a win over the Bulls. But on Tuesday, Tatum acknowledged that there have been some lingering respiratory side effects from the virus.
“I think it messes with your breathing a little bit,” he said. “I have experienced some games where, I don’t want to say struggling to breathe, but you get fatigued a lot quicker than normal. Just running up and down the court a few times, it’s easier to get out of breath or tired a lot faster.“
“I’ve noticed that since I’ve had COVID. It’s just something I’m working on; it’s gotten better since the first game I played, but I still deal with it from time to time.”
Tatum’s offensive output has dipped a bit over this period, too, although his minutes have actually risen.
Prior to being sidelined, Tatum was averaging 34.6 minutes per game and shooting 47.4 percent from the field and 43.8 percent from the 3-point line. In the 11 games since his return, he is averaging 36 minutes and shooting 42.7 percent from the field and 36.9 percent from the 3-point line.
Tatum said the Celtics’ medical and coaching staffs are aware of the issue, and that it typically does not affect him for an entire game.
“It’s just certain stretches where breathing is a little out of whack, and I talk to the medical staff and coaching staff about it,” he said. “It’s gotten better obviously from the first game I came back and played. I guess it’s just a long process. I’ve talked to other guys that have had it and they say they experienced the same thing, and it kind of just gets better over time. But as much as we play, I guess it takes a little bit longer.”
Celtics coach Brad Stevens said he has tried to monitor Tatum’s fatigue level knowing that the All-Star forward is unlikely to ask to leave a game very often. He said it was clear during Sunday’s game against the Wizards, when Tatum was just 3 for 14 and scored a season-low 6 points, that he was tired. Tatum played just 23 minutes, but that was mostly because he had early foul trouble before the Celtics faced such a large fourth-quarter deficit that he was no longer needed.
“I think that people are still learning the long-term effects,” Stevens said. “I think it’s one of the scary things about this. But it’s why I said when those guys were diagnosed with that, like my No. 1 thing is, make sure all the heart tests are done, ad nauseum, right? Just over and over. I want to make sure we’re good to go. I certainly would never want to put anybody in a position where there was any risk at all due to that.
“The breathing and the shortness of breath, obviously, there’s probably part of that that’s related to COVID and part of that that’s related to being off for 14 days and then having to build that back up. But certainly, we’re on top of that.”