Back in November, Marcus Smart sent shockwaves through the Celtics roster when he publicly called out Jason Tatum and Jaylene Brown after an ugly home loss to the Chicago Bulls.
“I just like to play basketball,” Smart said in November when asked about the Celtics’ attack late in the game. “Every team knows we’re trying to go to Jayson and Jaylen and every team is programmed and studies to stop Jayson and Jaylen. I think everyone’s scouting report is to have these guys try to pass the ball. They don’t want to pass the ball and that’s something they will learn.”
In his appearance on The Old Man and the Three podcast with JJ Redick this week, Tatum has opened up about his reaction to this criticism.
“It definitely surprised me,” Tatum said. “I think you have to understand, with being in the NBA, especially sometimes after that — we just blew an 18-point lead to Chicago. That was the start of the season, we were 2-5, everyone was frustrated and a bit on edge.” .
While Tatum did not address the comments for several days in the aftermath, he said a meeting with Marcus Smart at the training facility ended up getting everyone on the same page.
“I wasn’t angry or crazy or anything,” Tatum said. “I just waited until the next day. I saw Marcus at the facility and we sat and talked. It was a great talk indeed. We had some time to sleep. The adrenaline was gone from the game. He apologized for what he said and that was something he had to say in the media and they mixed up his words.” I did not sympathize.
“I started by saying, ‘Brother I’m not perfect. I make mistakes. I still have a long way to go from where I’m trying to get there. I think we’re done with the conversation, we’re in this together, we’re all on the same team trying to figure it out. Try saying things like that’ In the media it doesn’t help anyone’s case because that’s all they’re talking about for the next week or so when referring to the Celtics. It wasn’t the end of the world. Do no harm, we’re past it now.”
It took another two months for the Celtics amid a bevy of injuries and inconsistent play to turn the team’s season around following Smart’s comments. However, Boston has won nine of its last 10 games heading into All-Star Break amid improved play from Smart and Tatum. Even Smart has focused on highlighting Tatum’s improved passes.
“We all know everyone’s game plan, as I said before,” Smart said last week. “Everyone’s game plan is to get the Jays to pass the ball. They have to do a good job at that and they’ve done an amazing job at it. By doing that, it will just open up the floor for them over the stretch of time where it’s time to take over and make it difficult for them to Loading defenses when you have players who shoot and shoot and do the right play.”