NBA Coach: 'Jayson Tatum Is About Jayson Tatum'; 'Don't Think He Cares About Winning'

Tim Daniels@@TimDanielsBRFeatured Columnist IVNovember 24, 2021

BOSTON, MA - NOVEMBER 20: Jayson Tatum #0 of the Boston Celtics looks on against the Oklahoma City Thunder on November 20, 2021 at the TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2021 NBAE (Photo by Zach Beeker/NBAE via Getty Images)
Zach Beeker/NBAE via Getty Images

An unnamed NBA assistant coach took a shot at Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum for his perceived lack of a team-first approach.

"Jayson Tatum is about Jayson Tatum," the Eastern Conference coach told ESPN's Tim Bontemps. "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."

Tatum's scoring average (25.7 points per game) is down only slightly from last season (26.4), but his offensive efficiency has taken a major hit during the early stages of the 2021-22 campaign.

The fifth-year pro out of Duke is shooting career-worst percentages from the field (41.2) and on three-pointers (33.3), and he's averaging nearly an assist less per game (3.5) than last season (4.3).

His mediocre shooting combined with taking a career-high number of field-goal attempts (22.4) has created a situation when the Boston offense often gets caught in a rut when he's struggling.

Teammate Marcus Smart has raised that concern about Tatum and Jaylen Brown, who's averaging 18.3 shots per game, and suggested they need to distribute the ball more often.

"Every team knows we're trying to go to Jayson and Jaylen," Smart told reporters after a Nov. 1 loss to the Chicago Bulls. "Every team is programmed and studied to stop Jayson and Jaylen. I think everybody's scouting report is to make those guys pass the ball. They don't want to pass the ball."

Tatum, 23, addressed those remarks a week later, saying they held a meeting to discuss everyone's concerns.

"Personally, I mean, we talked about it—individually and had a team meeting, I guess. But I know how to play basketball. I've been doing it a long time, and I'm pretty successful at it," he said.

Tatum, in the first season of a five-year, $163 million contract, added he knows there's "a lot to improve on."

It's not like the sky is falling on the Celtics. They've improved their record to 10-8 with a modest three-game winning streak and have won eight of their past 11 games since Smart's comments.

Tatum's shot has also started to fall as he's shot 50 percent from the field (46 of 92) over the C's last four games while converting 38.0 percent of his threes (16 of 42).

As long as those trends continue, any criticism of the two-time All-Star will fade into the background.