How Celtics Point Guard’s Criticism Triggered a Talk w/Jayson Tatum

Getty Images Jayson Tatum of the Celtics looks on during the second quarter against the Philadelphia 76ers at Wells Fargo Center

Being selected to the All-Star Game is an honor; a dream reserved for some odd 25-NBA players every year, and for Boston Celtics’ Jayson Tatum, who’s headed to his third straight, it’s an ideal time for reflecting.

That’s what Tatum did. In a one-on-one conversation with JJ Redick, host of The Old Man & The Three podcast, the three-time All-Star opened up about the beginning years of his career.

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Jayson Tatum on Marcus Smart’s Criticism: ‘It Caught Me Off-Guard’

Tatum revealed that success early on — a la two trips to the Conference finals in three years — probably wasn’t the best thing for young Jayson.

He took things for granted. So, when Celtics point guard Marcus Smart publically criticized Tatum and Jaylen Brown two weeks into the 2021-22 campaign because they didn’t “want to pass” the ball, Tatum was taken aback.

“It caught me off-guard, for sure,” Tatum replied. “I think what you have to understand with being in the NBA is, especially after we had just blown an 18-point lead to Chicago, this is the beginning of the season. We’re like probably like 2-5; everybody’s frustrated. We’re all on edge, a little bit. So, when I seen it and I wasn’t angry. I wasn’t mad or anything. I just waited until the next day. I saw Smart at the facility, and we sat down and talked.”

Tatum & Smart Had a ‘Great Talk’

After the Celtics found themselves on the wrong end of a 39-11 run in the fourth quarter, the Chicago Bulls cruised to a 96-77 victory on the heels of Brown and Tatum combining for 1-of-10 attempts while Smart went 1-of-2 that night. So it’s safe to say tensions were high moments afterward when Marcus faced the media.

However, cooler heads prevailed the following day.

“It was a great talk, actually,” Tatum added. “We had some time to sleep. You know, the adrenaline was gone from the game, and he apologized for what he said — that was something he shouldn’t have said in the media. They got his words mixed up, or whatever. I didn’t take offense. I started off by saying, ‘Listen, bro, I’m not perfect. I make mistakes.’ I still got a long way to go from where I’m trying to get to.

“But, I think we ended the conversation on ‘We’re in this together, we’re all on the same team, and we’re trying to figure it out.’”

Celtics Taking Hot Streak into the All-Star Break

Fast-forward three months later, and the Celtics are currently the hottest team in the association.

Winners of 12 of their last 14 games, Boston — 34-26 — owns the sixth-best record in the Eastern Conference, trailing the champion Milwaukee Bucks by a pair of games.

“Obviously, saying things certain things like that to the media doesn’t help anybody’s case because obviously, that’s all they talked about for the next week or so when referring to the Celtics,” Tatum explained. “But, it wasn’t the end of the world. No harm, there was no foul, and we’re past it now.”