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NBA assistant coach: ‘Jayson Tatum is about Jayson Tatum. I don’t think he cares about winning now.’

Celtics star Jayson Tatum

Nov 17, 2021; Atlanta, Georgia, USA; Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum (0) walks off the floor after a loss against the Atlanta Hawks at State Farm Arena. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

The Celtics had chemistry problems with Kyrie Irving. They had chemistry problems after Kyrie Irving.

Now, scrutiny is intensifying around Boston’s franchise player, Jayson Tatum.

Marcus Smart said Tatum and Jaylen Brown “don’t want to pass the ball.” That reportedly led to a not-terribly productive players-only meeting… and plenty of chatter from people within the NBA.

Tim Bontemps of ESPN:
“They’ve looked like [players that] legitimately don’t enjoy each other’s success, and it’s been like that for years,” an Eastern Conference executive said. “The fact it’s still rearing its head is not surprising in that regard.”

“Jayson Tatum is about Jayson Tatum,” an Eastern Conference assistant coach said. “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.”

That describes many, many stars – especially young ones.

Tatum led the Celtics to Game 7 of the 2018 Eastern Conference finals as a rookie. His idol, Kobe Bryant, followed with advice: Shoot every time. Boston gave Tatum a max contract extension.

It’d be a miracle if Tatum didn’t believe his team should run through him.

The anonymous coach’s criticism is also overly harsh. Tatum defends well. He isn’t just preoccupied with scoring.

Tatum’s big problem: He doesn’t pass well enough for how much the ball is in his hands. But he’s just 23 and still learning. He can improve his skills and become more capable of winning on his terms. Or he can adjust his game to fit better into a team construct. Probably both.

Will he strike the right balance to maximize winning?

Who knows? Of the numerous rising stars to face this challenge, some really figure it out. Others don’t.

But now Tatum must go through the process under the pressure of an intensifying spotlight.