Jayson Tatum Comes Clean on Agendas That Sank Celtics’ 2019 Championship Hope

Getty Former teammates Kyrie Irving and Jayson Tatum of the Boston Celtics.

The 2018-19 NBA season is one of the more disappointing years in recent memory for Boston Celtics fans.

With a roster full of elite talent, up-and-coming stars, and one of the brightest young coaches in the league, the Celtics were widely viewed as the best team in the NBA that year.

Yet, for one reason or another, the players couldn’t gel together, and rumors of infighting began to surface in the media. Weirdly, the roster was eerily similar to the Celtics team that went to the conference finals the previous season and did so with Gordon Hayward and Kyrie Irving out with injury.

The lack of cohesion led to the Celtics getting in their own way, and potentially costing themselves a championship as a result. In a recent podcast appearance, Jayson Tatum finally lifted the lid on some of the Celtics’ struggles throughout that infamous season.


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“It was a combination of Kyrie and Gordon coming back. Obviously, we know what Kyrie is capable of, but Gordon was coming off an All-Star appearance the year before and was and still is a very good player. But then you have myself, JB, and Terry that naturally wanted more. We were young, and we knew what we just accomplished and how close we got. We wanted more, we wanted to be the guys,” Tatum told JJ Redick.


Nobody Was Pulling Together

Tatum’s comments align with some of the fan base’s fears from before that season began. After all, you had Terry Rozier, Tatum, and Jaylen Brown all coming off a conference finals run where they were the stars, and now that Boston’s veteran All-Stars were back healthy, a power struggle felt inevitable.

“Everybody was a little resistant, instead of being like no, ‘we’re all playing for the same goal, all gonna get paid, all gonna get All-Stars or whatever.’ And I think everybody played a part in that, I know I did for sure. As bad as I wanted to win, I wanted to be, like, we all knew Kyrie was the best player, but I wanted to be number 2,” Tatum explained to Redick.

Of course, nobody admitted to a power struggle at the time, but Irving left the team at the end of the season, and Hayward followed him out of the door just 12 months later. Rozier, who had earned the nickname “Scary Terry” during the 2017-18 season also wanted out, after being relegated to a bench role behind Irving, and left in a blaze of glory at the end of that fateful season.

Unfortunately, in the Tatum and Brown era, that season was likely the Celtics’ best shot at a championship. The Golden State Warriors fell to a litany of injuries as the playoffs wore on, and the Kawhi Leonard-led Toronto Raptors ended up winning it all.


Tatum Takes Share of The Blame

While the entire roster was at fault for what transpired that year, Tatum understands the role he played within the dysfunction and owned up to his shortcomings when discussing how things unraveled.

“I take responsibility for some of those things, but just looking back on it, especially the Warriors not being at full strength, you can’t help but think, that could have been us,” Tatum said as he ended the trip down memory lane.

Of course, we all remember the “in-air team meeting” from that season, and the highlights of Irving chewing out his teammates for overlooking him on open shots. There was a lot of “me first” going around on that iteration of the Celtics, and every core member of the roster was guilty to some degree.

Unfortunately, that season will go down in Celtics history as one that got away along with their capitulation during the NBA bubble season. But, with the roster now looking vastly different, and Tatum and Brown in the starring roles, we can begin to hope that significant lessons have been learned so that the next time the Celtics are in that position, they all pull together in the hope of etching their names into the history books.

 

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