Questions Abound as ‘Sloppy’ Celtics Star Continues to Struggle

Jayson Tatum, Ime Udoka, Boston Celtics

Getty Jayson Tatum getting advice from Boston Celtics head coach Ime Udoka.

Jayson Tatum is a two-time All-Star and widely regarded as a future top-10 talent in the NBA, yet his recent performances for the Boston Celtics have got people asking, “What’s going wrong?” It’s a fair question, too, since Tatum’s start to the season has been head-scratchingly poor.

Tatum has had slow starts to a season before; in fact, he’s known for coming out of the gates slowly before picking his production up as the season wears on. Yet, this season feels different, Tatum looks different, and people are starting to develop concerns for his 13-game slump.

To start the season, Tatum is shooting 38.8% from the field and 32.1% from deep, a far cry from his career averages of 45.3% and 39.1%, respectively, per Basketball-Reference. But to understand Tatum’s poor offensive performance, we need to peel another layer off these numbers.

According to Cleaning The Glass, Tatum is shooting 52% at the rim, and 37% from mid-range, and his three are equally unreliable from both the corner and above the break at 33% each. Simply put, nothing is falling for the All-Star, which is a concerning development when factoring in his importance to the Celtics offense.

Despite Tatum’s struggles when shooting the ball, he’s been a much-improved rebounder and has shown growth as a passer and defender. Once his shot begins to fall, we’re likely to see a better version of Tatum than the one who won an Olympic gold medal with Team USA earlier this year.

Udoka Had Some Harsh Words for Tatum

Shortly after Tatum went 8-for-22 from the field against the Cleveland Cavaliers, Ime Udoka spoke to the media, and when asked about Tatum’s struggles, gave an honest assessment:

“A little frustration on missed shots, letting it affect him on the other end, and just gotta play through that. Had some tough shooting nights. We’ve talked about him impacting the game in other ways. He got frustrated, played in the crowd a little bit, some sloppy ones. And like I said, he’s got to be able to impact the game when he’s not scoring, in the ways he has in the past, which he can do.”

Ime Udoka Postgame Interview | Celtics vs Cavaliers 11-13CLEVELAND, OH — Ime Udoka spoke with media after Boston's collapse against the Cavaliers. On Jayson Tatum's shooting struggles, Udoka said that Tatum expressed "A little frustration on missed shots, letting it affect him on the other end. Just got to play through that." Boston will have a chance for revenge when they face Cleveland…2021-11-14T04:32:23Z

Udoka overlooked Tatum, who was 1-for-8 from the field in this contest, for the game’s final shot, instead of turning to veteran point guard Dennis Schroder, who ultimately missed the shot attempt.

Since Tatum’s ascendance into a premier scoring threat in the NBA, it’s been rare that the ball hasn’t been in his hands to close out a tight game, usually only happening when one of the team’s other stars has got hot throughout the final quarter. So, for Udoka to give Schroder, the last look is indicative of how much Tatum is struggling right now.

Schroder: He’s One of the Best Players in This League’

Despite Tatum’s offensive struggles continuing against the Cavaliers, Dennis Schroder had some kind words to say about the All-Star wing following the Celtics loss.

“He’s one of the best players in this league. He’s five years in, he gotta figure it out, end of the day, he’s doing everything right. He’s working, he’s doing everything every day, going into the gym, being the first one in, last one out. End of the day, we’re gonna take him all day, I’m taking him all day, we’re going to war with him, and he gonna figure it out, whatever it is. Sometimes I talk to him, tell him to take it to the basket a little more, put the pressure on the refs, but he’s doing a great job, and he’s just going to keep getting better.”

Dennis Schroder Postgame Interview | Celtics vs Cavaliers 11-13CLEVELAND, OH — Dennis Schroder spoke with media after Boston collapsed in a 91-89 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers. When asked about teammate Jayson Tatum's shooting struggles, Schroder came to his defense and was supportive. "I'm going to war with him," Dennis Schroder said, "at the end of the day, he's gonna figure it out."…2021-11-14T04:22:58Z

Tatum’s struggles may be real, but the Celtics’ recent form is exasperating them. Had Boston been winning some of their close games, the concerns for his slow start would be far less prominent from both media and fans alike. Alas, the losses have happened, and now Tatum finds himself amidst the worse slump of his NBA career, with no sign of snapping out of it any time soon.

However, Tatum will get another chance to get his season rolling when the Celtics face off against the Cavaliers on Monday, November 15th.

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