Jason Tatum

Jeff Siner / Charlotte Observer

Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum celebrates his victory in the skills challenge during the NBA All-Star Saturday Night festivities at Spectrum Center in Charlotte, N.C., in 2019. Tatum is due to sign a max extension with the Celtics this offseason, but may be worried about injury during the current season’s return.

After a breakout season in his third year in the NBA, Jayson Tatum positioned himself perfectly for a huge contract extension from the Boston Celtics after this season.

He’s likely to command a deal similar to the five-year, $170-contract that Ben Simmons got from the Philadelphia 76ers last year in the offseason. The Celtics are committed to building around the budding star. The only thing standing between him and a big payday is an injury or a medical problem. There’s an increased risk of the latter playing in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic.

According to the New York Daily News’ Stefan Bondy, Tatum is reluctant to risk his health by resuming the season when the NBA restarts the 2019-20 season next month in Orlando. Bondy wrote:

“Then there’s the threat of injury, which is especially significant to players on the verge of big contracts. According to a source, Boston Celtics’ forward Jayson Tatum, who is eligible for a max extension in the offseason, has expressed reluctance to play for that reason.”

The follows an earlier report from ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski who reported that Tatum was part of a group of young NBA players who inquired with the National Basketball Players Association about potentially acquiring league-financed insurance to protect against career-threatening injuries suffered during the league’s restart in Orlando.

According to Wojnarowski, insurance policies might cost somewhere around $500,000 for players who could sign extensions worth more than $100 million.

The league will bring 22 teams to the Walt Disney World Complex to complete the season. Teams will play eight games to determine seeding followed by a 16-team playoff. The Celtics will arrive in Florida with the No. 3 record on the Eastern Conference largely on the strength of Tatum’s best season of his career. He was averaging 23.6 points per game when the league shut down and played in his first All-Star Game.

Several NBA players, including Tatum’s Celtic teammate Marcus Smart, have tested positive for COVID-19. Utah big man Rudy Gobert’s positive test on March 11, led to the league suspending its season. It’s too soon to know if any of the players experienced lasting affects from being infected.

The NBA and the Players Union have agreed that players, who are uncomfortable participating in the restart can opt out without being in breach of contract. They have to inform their teams by next week.