Boston Celtics star Jayson Tatum recently came under some criticism stemming from a November 24 column shared by ESPN’s Tim Bontemps. In the column, the NBA insider shared a quote from an anonymous Eastern Conference assistant coach who was highly critical of Tatum’s hunger to win and what the coach perceives as an affinity to stuff the stat sheet — even if it potentially comes at the expense of his own team.
“I don’t think he cares about winning now, and if he does, it is on his terms,” the assistant coach proclaimed. “He doesn’t want to score 15 and win. He wants to score 39 and win.”
Safe to say Brad Stevens was not a fan of the unnamed coach’s hot take. The coach-turned-president of basketball operations for the Celtics slammed the quote calling it “idiotic” during a December 2 appearance on 98.5 The Sports Hub’s “Toucher and Rich.”
“That quote was absolutely ridiculous, to be honest,” said Stevens. “I don’t ever react to that stuff, and I actually sent a note to one of the people I work with like ‘this is idiotic.’”
Stevens proceeded his roast of the unclaimed Tatum jab, slamming the coach for his anonymity.
“If you can’t put your name on it, don’t say it,” he stated. “There is no way that assistant coach would put his name on that quote because, first of all, he has never been around Jayson. And, secondly, Jayson would kill him every time he played him for the rest of his career. That’s the way those guys in this league are wired.”
Stevens on Tatum: ‘That Guy Loves to Win’
There’s no denying that Tatum enjoys putting the ball in the basket. Frankly, who could blame him? He can score with the best of them. His 24.4 points per game this season rank 10th in the NBA and he’s now scored 23-plus points in nine straight games. However, his scoring prowess doesn’t look to be serving as a detriment to his team. Over that nine-game span, the Celtics own a 6-3 record.
“I actually sent a note to one of the people I work with like, ‘This is idiotic.’ Just be around this guy every day. That guy loves to win,” Stevens said. “He’s sitting there with his feet in the ice bucket after every game that we lose and he looks despondent. This guy’s competitive. I know that for a fact. I’m glad he’s on our team.”
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Tatum: ‘That Seems Pretty Unselfish of Me’
Admittedly, Tatum has had his fair share of rough patches this season. His field goal percentage (39.7) and 3-point percentage (31.9) in 2021-22 are by far the worst of his career. However, he’s begun to tap into other skills in his vast array of tools to help make up for some of his lapses. His 8.9 rebounds on the year mark a new personal best, while he led the team with 10 assists in a victory over the Toronto Raptors on November 28.
Asked by reporters about his willingness to defer to the likes of Dennis Schroder and other teammates late in games, Tatum was quick to reference the “selfish” take.
“I seen a report the other day that said I was a selfish player. That seems pretty unselfish of me, but whatever it takes for us to win,” Tatum said following the team’s most recent outing, a one-point victory over the Philadelphia 76ers, via NBC Sports Boston. “I guess more often than not it’s going to be in my hands but we play 82-something games in the regular season. There’s going to be some nights where you might need to space the floor, take the best defender away out of the action and see what we get.”