East Coach Rips Celtics’ Tatum: ‘I Don’t Think He Cares About Winning’

Jayson Tatum, Boston Celtics

Getty Jayson Tatum of the Boston Celtics.

The season has begun to turn around for Jayson Tatum following weeks of struggles. Yet, the Boston Celtics All-Star wing has come in for scrutiny from an anonymous Eastern Conference assistant coach.

In his latest piece for ESPN, Tim Bontemps dives into the Celtics’ recent struggles, their hemorrhaging of star talent over the last few seasons, and where the team can go next. When reading through Bontemps’s piece, it’s clear he’s consulted with sources from around the league, but shockingly, their opinions on both Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum are damming.

As two young All-Stars in the NBA, you would think that Tatum and Brown’s stock was on an ever-rising trajectory. However, it would see there are particular members of rival organizations that haven’t been impressed with either of the Celtics star players’ current growth.

One Eastern Conference assistant coach told Bontemps, “Jayson Tatum is about Jayson Tatum, I don’t think he cares about winning now, and if he does, it is on his terms,” a sentiment that has a striking resemblance to comments we’ve heard about another elite scorer in the past: Carmelo Anthony. “He doesn’t want to score 15 and win. He wants to score 39 and win,” the anonymous coach continued.

As a counter to what the anonymous coach told Bontemps, Tatum has only scored less than 20 points twice this season, with the Celtics winning both games, per Basketball-Reference.

Western Conference Scout Questions Brown & Tatum’s Development

There are quotes from numerous sources littered throughout Bontemp’s latest piece, most of which revolve around Brown and Tatum’s growth and required improvements.

A common theme for both of the Celtics’ wings is that they need to continue developing their playmaking ability. Many see that as a potential key to future success as a duo, rather than as part of a big three.

However, one Western Conference scout doesn’t believe that Tatum and Brown have shown enough development to bank on them becoming high-level playmakers any time soon. “If they can’t get that third guy, they have to make other players better, and they haven’t shown the ability to do that yet,” Bontemps wrote.

We’re now a quarter of the NBA season deep, and according to Cleaning The Glass, Tatum’s assist-to-usage ratio has taken quite the tumble. Last season, Tatum assisted on 19.6% of the Celtics made shots while he was on the floor. This year he’s assisting on 16.8%, which may not sound like a significant drop, but it’s seen the two-time All-Star slide from the 54th percentile to the 37th percentile.

Brown hasn’t faired much better, sitting in the 15th percentile for assist-to-usage ratio, 24 spots lower than last year. In fairness, Brown has missed considerable time to start the season, but with both he and Tatum posting lower assist numbers than last season, there is a slight cause for concern.

Boston Needs a Third Star

It’s a common consensus that to win an NBA championship, and you need a big three. Three stars, all residing around the NBA’s top 25-30 players, whose games mesh well with each other. Many thought the Kyrie Irving, Gordon Hayward, Al Horford era of the Celtics would be their new trio to compete for a championship, but lady luck had different ideas.

Now, the Celtics are relying on a young, skilled duo of wings to lead them to the promised land, maybe not right now, but in the not too distant future. It wasn’t long ago that the league began trending towards duos, either.

We had the Los Angeles Lakers with LeBron James, the LA Clippers with Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, the Brooklyn Nets with Irving and Kevin Durant – the list goes on.

Yet, some of those teams got impatient; James Harden found himself heading to Brooklyn, Jrue Holiday headed to Milwaukee. But the Celtics found themselves losing talent rather than adding to it, and with an ever-dwindling asset pile, now find themselves stuck in purgatory.

As such, Tatum and Brown will need to elevate their games to another level, while the role players around them will also need to improve, if only to increase their potential trade value in the future.

One thing’s for sure, though; the Celtics route back to contender status isn’t as clear cut as it was just three or four years ago, but they’re still in pretty good shape, with plenty of high-potential assets that could still help bring that elusive third star into the TD Garden.

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