Jayson Tatum has recently been the target of anonymous criticism within NBA circles. So his former coach and Celtics President of Basketball Ops Brad Stevens felt compelled to push back on it in a new interview with 98.5 The Sports Hub’s Toucher and Rich.
An unnamed assistant coach in the Eastern Conference was recently quoted by ESPN’s Tim Bontemps as saying, on Tatum: “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.”
Asked about the comments, Stevens told Toucher and Rich, in so many words, that it’s nonsense – and basically that whoever said it was cowardly for saying it anonymously.
“If you can’t put your name on it, don’t say it,” Stevens said. “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,” Stevens continued. “To me that line was a joke, because I’m around [Tatum] 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. 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.”
This seems like a good time to remind folks across the NBA that Tatum is still just 23 years old. So it’s too early to make any kind of sweeping declaration on him as a player or his career.
Listen above for the full Brad Stevens interview on Toucher and Rich.