Jayson Tatum Blasts ESPN ‘Selfish Player’ Report After Celtics’ Win

Jayson Tatum and Ime Udoka, Boston Celtics

Getty Jayson Tatum and Boston Celtics head coach Ime Udoka

After topping the Philadelphia 76ers in an 88-87 win at TD Garden, Boston Celtics star Jayson Tatum revealed how his team overcame its offensive shortcomings while sending a parting shot to naysayers calling his character into question.

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Per ESPN’s Tim Bontemps, one anonymous Eastern Conference assistant coach accused Tatum of being the type of player who only cares about winning “on his terms.” And after edging out the Sixers, the suggestive narrative via ESPN’s report last week was undoubtedly on Tatum’s mind.

Jayson Tatum On Celtics’ Late-Game Execution: ‘Pretty Unselfish to Me’

Instead of force-feeding Tatum in the midst of one of the Celtics’ worst offensive performances of the regular season, where Boston finished with 88 points, Ime Udoka’s offensive approach in the fourth quarter led to him drawing up plays for others. Including backup guard Dennis Schroder, who scored seven of his 13 points in the fourth quarter. Tatum finished with a game-high 26 points on 9-of-20 attempts along with a new career-high 16 rebounds.

However, for Jayson, he understands that every game is different. Tatum understands he won’t always have the ball in his hands down the stretch, and he’s OK with that.

“I seen a report the other day that said I was a “selfish player.” That seems pretty unselfish to me, but whatever it takes for us to win,” Tatum said after Wednesday’s win. “More often than not, it’s (the ball) going to be in my hands, but we play 82 games in the regular season. There’s going to be certain nights where you might need to space the floor, take the best defender away out the action and see what we get.”

Why Robert Williams is The Celtics’ ‘Security Blanket’

For the second time in three tries, the Celtics (88) scored fewer than 90 points. In fact, according to The Athletic’s Jay King, Boston’s offense is now ranked in the bottom half of most offensive statistical categories, including fourth-quarter execution, where Boston is ranked 29th, 3-point percentage (25th), assists (22nd), and overall offense (24th), per The Athletic.

“Low scoring game, not shooting great but you know you figure out a way to win a game,” Tatum said after Wednesday’s win. “Especially games like this — not the prettiest. But, it feels good when you find a way to win a game like this.”

For Tatum, he’s continuing to learn new ways to be effective.

“Just being committed to trying to help us win,” Tatum said. “Trying to do everything that I can to contribute to that. You know, Rob gets mad at me sometimes because he feels like he boxes out and I come to steal it but that’s part of the game.”

Along with Robert Williams, who swatted Sixers guard Georges Niang’s game-winning 3-pointer as the game clock expired, Jayson’s effort on both ends of the floor bore fruit in the Celtics’ win over the Sixers.

“It makes all of the difference on the defensive end. Even offensively, (he’s) one of the best passers,” Tatum said of his starting center. “He’s like that safety net. If you get beat, you trust that Rob is going to, if not block it, alter the shot with his ability. So, you just have that security blanket back there with Rob being in the paint.”