By Ty Anderson, 985TheSportsHub.com
Appearing on Showtime's All The Smoke podcast with Matt Barnes and Stephen Jackson this week, Tatum revealed the story of his move to Boston at the 2017 NBA Draft and how it was something he absolutely was not interested in at first.
In fact, coming out of Duke and after a string of pre-draft workouts, Tatum had circled Phoenix as his ideal destination.
In Phoenix, Tatum would have lived in warm weather (and had his mother join him) in a 'nice house with a pool', and would've had a path to immediate playing time and a definite role as the Suns formed a fantastic young one-two punch with Tatum and superstar shooter Devin Booker. Tatum was so sold on Phoenix, or sold on anywhere-but-the-Celtics at the very least, that he didn't even want to make the trip to Boston for a workout with the C's when his agent called him to let him know of Danny Ainge and Co.'s interest.
“I’m like, ‘I’m not trying to hear that. I want to go to Phoenix,'” Tatum recalled. “My agent was like, ‘Just think about it.’ So we hang up. I’m like, ‘I’m not going to this workout right now. I’m cool.’"
But Tatum's disinterest in Boston went beyond the weather and pool advantages Phoenix offered.
“There was a part of me that didn’t want to go to Boston because they just were the No. 1 team in the East [in 2017]," Tatum, who flew out to Boston just days before the 2017 NBA Draft, said. "They had Isaiah Thomas, Al Horford, Smart, JB, Jae Crowder. I was like, ‘Man, I’m not going to play. I’m trying to get buckets.'”
His stance softened, however, when Duke's Mike Krzyzewski called and let him know the opportunity presented to him in Boston should the Celtics draft him.
"Coach K called me right after my agent did and he was like, ‘Jayson, the Celtics called, they want you to come work out. I think Brad Stevens is a great coach and it’s a great place to be. You’ll learn a lot,'" Tatum said. "I’m like, ‘Ugh, all right. I’ll go.'”
Ultimately drafted by the Celtics (after the Celtics traded the No. 1 overall pick to the Sixers for the No. 3 overall pick and more), it didn't take long for Tatum's vision of the Celtics to change. Shortly after the Celtics added Gordon Hayward on a max contract, Thomas and Crowder were shipped out to Cleveland for Kyrie Irving, and Tatum found himself in a starting role.
Tatum only grew from there, and now in his third season in Celtic Green, the St. Louis native can't deny that everything about his decision to give the C's a chance has worked out in his favor.
"I’ve really enjoyed being in Boston so far, Tatum, who was averaging a career-high 23.6 points per game when the league paused, admitted. "Playing in the Garden is like no other place. The fans are amazing. Just looking up at the 17 championships that we have and all the great players that came before me. It’s crazy.”
The Suns, meanwhile, drafted Josh Jackson after Tatum's selection (Jackson has since been traded to Memphis), fired head coach Earl Watson three games into the 2017 season, and have won just 66 of their 229 games since Tatum entered the NBA.
“It worked out really well," said Tatum. (And every Celtic fan, for that matter.)