Boston Celtics president of basketball operations Brad Stevens said the suggestion that Jayson Tatum doesn’t care about winning is "absolutely ridiculous," while sounding off on a series of anonymous quotes about his team including one that suggested Tatum was more concerned with his individual stat line.
Stevens, making his weekly appearance on 98.5 The Sports Hub’s "Toucher and Rich" program, pushed back when asked about anonymous quotes in a recent ESPN article, particularly an unnamed Eastern Conference assistant coach who suggested Tatum only cares about big scoring nights.
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"If you can’t put your name on it, don’t say it,” said Stevens. "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. That’s the way those guys in this league are wired ...
“I take it with such a grain of salt. To me that line was a joke because I’m around him every day. You look at him, he plays, he’s available, he competes, he’s got a lot on his plate. 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. 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’s competitive. I know that for a fact. I’m glad he’s on our team.”
Tatum, who had a season-high 10 assists in a win Sunday in Toronto and then grabbed a career-best 16 rebounds in Wednesday’s win over Philadelphia, has also acknowledged the ESPN report. Tatum has battled a prolonged shooting slump at the start of the season that has contributed to Boston’s offensive woes. He’s found other ways to impact winning in recent games.
Asked about deferring to Dennis Schroder late against the Sixers, Tatum made reference to the selfish insinuation.
"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," said Tatum. "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, take the best defender away out of the action and see what we get.”
Asked after Wednesday’s win about finding ways to help the team beyond scoring and if that was satisfying, Tatum said:
"For sure, because it’s like I contributed to winning. I still dominated, still impacted the game at a high level without necessarily scoring 30 or 40 points, and still winning. Go home and sleep well tonight.”