BOSTON (CBS) — An unnamed assistant coach recently shared an unflattering opinion on Jayson Tatum, saying that the Celtics star cares more about big scoring nights than he does about winning. Those comments are not sitting well with Celtics president of basketball ops Brad Stevens.
In a piece by ESPN’s Tim Bontempts last week on Boston’s up-and-down start to the 2021-22 season — and the issues that have plagued the team over recent years — an anonymous Eastern Conference assistant coach said that “Jayson Tatum is about Jayson Tatum.”READ MORE: Devin McCourty Will Take Some Time Before Making A Decision About His Future
“I don’t think he cares about winning now, and if he does, it is on his terms,” they said. “He doesn’t want to score 15 and win. He wants to score 39 and win.”
Stevens does not care for that assessment of his star player, and he did not mince words when asked about it Thursday morning. The former Boston head coach saw Tatum make a pair of All-Star teams and help lead the Celtics to two Eastern Conference Finals in their four years together. Stevens called those those anonymous comments “idiotic” during his Thursday morning chat with Toucher & Rich on 98.5 The Sports Hub.
He also said if someone can’t put their name on such a critique of someone, they probably shouldn’t be opening their mouth in the first place.
“If you can’t put your name on it, don’t say it. There is no way that assistant coach would put his name on that quote because, first of all, he has never been around Jayson. And, secondly, Jayson would kill him every time he played him for the rest of his career,” said Stevens. “That’s the way those guys in this league are wired.”
Stevens said that he’s around Tatum every day and that the 23-year-old works his backside off to be the best that he can be for the team.READ MORE: Brad Marchand Snatches Fan's Phone, Records Hilarious Message Before Bruins-Capitals Game
“He plays, he’s available, he competes, he’s got a lot on his plate,” said Stevens. “He’s done a lot more in his first five years in the league than most of the league, right? Totally, totally wrong in that guy’s assessment.
“I thought that quote was absolutely ridiculous, to be honest,” Stevens continued. “I don’t ever react to that stuff and I actually sent a note to one of the people I work with like, ‘This is idiotic.’ Just be around this guy every day. That guy loves to win. He’s sitting there with his feet in the ice bucket after every game that we lose and he looks despondent. This guy is competitive — I know that for a fact. I’m glad he’s on our team.”
Tatum has struggled with his shot this season, hitting just 39.7 percent overall and 31.9 percent from downtown — the lowest shooting percentages of his career. He’s still averaging 24.6 points to go with a career-best 8.9 rebounds along with 3.6 assists per game.
He had a team-high 26 points and a career-best 16 rebounds in Wednesday night’s win over the Philadelphia 76ers. He deferred at the end of the game as Dennis Schroder hit a flurry of clutch baskets down the stretch to help seal the win, and referred to the unnamed assistant’s comments when he was asked about his late-game approach after Wednesday’s win.
“I seen a report the other day that said I was a selfish player. That seems pretty unselfish of me, but whatever it takes for us to win,” he said “I guess more often than not it’s going to be in my hands but we play 82-something games in the regular season. There’s going to be some nights where you might need to space the floor and take the best defender away out of the action, see what we get.”MORE NEWS: Bruins Upset With 'Cheap Hit' That Knocked Brad Marchand Out Of Win Over Capitals
Tatum said that he’d go home and sleep well Wednesday night knowing that he contributed to a winning effort without putting up a big scoring effort. He probably feels even better on Thursday knowing that Stevens has his back.