After making the Eastern Conference Finals in two out of three seasons from 2017 to 2020, the Boston Celtics have seemingly taken a step back. A first-round playoff exit last year and a lackluster start to the 2021-22 campaign has many wondering exactly what’s going on with the historic organization.
Frustrations have also started to build within the team in Boston. Point guard Marcus Smart made public comments earlier this season about how the Celtics two star forwards, Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, have struggled to pass the ball and create opportunities for their teammates.
A recent remark from an Eastern Conference assistant coach revealed that Smart isn’t the only one to notice the apparent emphasis on individuals stats in Boston.
An anonymous Eastern Conference coach told ESPN reporter Tim Bontemps that Tatum in particular is too concerned with his own performance rather than that of the team’s.
“Jayson Tatum is about Jayson Tatum,” the anonymous coach said, per 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.”
New ESPN story: The Celtics spent several years as a favorite to make it out of the East. As the current East favorite Nets come to town tonight, here’s a look at how Boston – which has won eight of its last 11 games – can get back to that level again.https://t.co/eLHz6PjBbG
— Tim Bontemps (@TimBontemps) November 24, 2021
Although harsh, the comments from the anonymous coach aren’t entirely inaccurate.
Tatum is nearly averaging a career-high in points this season (25.7 PPG), but has seen his shooting splits take a shocking fall. He’s shot career-lows the field (41.2%) and 3-point range (33.3%) this year and is averaging fewer assists per game (3.5) than last season.
In fairness to Tatum and the Celtics, Boston (10-8) has played much better as of late, especially since Brown returned to the lineup from injury. The organization has won eight of its last 11 games headed into a pivotal early-season meeting with the Brooklyn Nets on Wednesday.
The Celtics might be playing some of their best basketball right now, but the team will need Tatum to be more efficient and a better playmaker if it hopes to make a deep playoff run.
Perhaps Boston’s All-Star forward can start to right the ship on Wednesday against the Eastern Conference-leading Nets.