Jayson Tatum might be on his way to being perceived as a selfish player across the league. Unnamed NBA coaches and executives are ripping the young All-Star and the Celtics’ whole mentality.
ESPN’s Tim Bontemps published a piece Wednesday containing some brutal quotes about the Celtics from league officials. An NBA assistant coach was the harshest on Tatum.
“Jayson Tatum is about Jayson Tatum,” said the Eastern Conference coach. “I don't think he cares about winning now, and if he does, it is on his terms. He doesn't want to score 15 and win. He wants to score 39 and win.”
Those criticisms echo Marcus Smart’s comments about Tatum and Jaylen Brown not passing the ball enough, albeit in more direct terms. Tatum’s offensive efficiency is way down, as the fifth-year pro out of Duke is shooting career-worst percentages from the field (41.2) and on three-pointers (33.3). His assists are down from 4.3 to 3.5 as well.
A Western Conference questioned Tatum and Brown’s ability to uplift their teammates. “Jaylen and Jayson aren't making anyone better,” the scout said. “I put that on them.”
An Eastern Conference executive voiced similar concerns. “They've looked like [players that] legitimately don't enjoy each other's success, and it's been like that for years,” the exec said. “The fact it's still rearing its head is not surprising in that regard."
I’s worth noting, however, that the Celtics are playing better as of late. They’ve won eight of 11 games since Smart’s remarks. Maybe that breakfast meeting worked after all.
Tatum is also playing more like himself. He’s averaging 33.3 points and 8.3 rebounds per game over the Celtics’ three-game winning streak. His stellar production earned him a shout-out from Bill Russell.
It’s not unprecedented for a young NBA star to prioritize personal accomplishments over championships. But the Celtics’ fortunes are tied to Tatum, who’s in the first year of a five-year, $163 million contract.
His fortunes are tied to the team as well. Hopefully he learns that sooner rather than later.