Celtics

‘The grass is not always greener’: Jayson Tatum explained why he and Jaylen Brown shouldn’t be split up

"We have plenty of talks — we ask each other, 'Do you want to be here?'"

Derick Hingle / AP

The Celtics’ star pairing of Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown came under fire earlier this season when the team was playing around .500 for a second straight year.

As several NBA analysts said that it was time for Boston to break up its young duo, Tatum admitted that he spoke with Brown about their futures playing together. They both came to the same conclusion.

“We’ve had plenty of talks. I think [talks of splitting us up] really picked up this year, especially at the beginning of the season,” Tatum said on J.J. Redick’s “The Old Man & the Three” podcast. “We have plenty of talks — we ask each other, ‘Do you want to be here?’ We both were like, ‘Yeah.’ He was like, ‘Bro, I don’t understand.’

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“If you really think about it, we’ve had way more success together than this year and what we didn’t accomplish last year. JB’s been to three conference finals, I’ve been to two. Like you said, we’re both still very far from our prime. And I think what people don’t understand is that if you want to break us up, the grass is not always greener. There’s not a lot of guys in the NBA like JB. Or if you want to get rid of me — not to toot my own horn — but I think I’m one of the best players. I couldn’t imagine why you wouldn’t want to have two of the best players, that are under 25, on your team.

“Yeah, there are certain rough patches throughout a season. But we’ve won way more games together than we lost.”

Statistically, Tatum isn’t wrong. In Brown and Tatum’s first three seasons together, the Celtics finished in the top four in the Eastern Conference standings and were well above .500 in each of those seasons.

However, both players had relatively smaller roles then. In their first season as the Celtics’ top two scoring options, they went 36-36. The Celtics were again at .500 through their first 50 games this season, and their offensive rating ranked toward the bottom of the league at 22nd (109.1).

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One of the boiling points during the first 50 games of the season came following a 128-114 loss to the Bulls in November, in which the Celtics blew a 19-point lead after scoring just 11 points in the fourth quarter.

Moments after the game, starting point guard Marcus Smart had some pointed criticism for Brown and Tatum, saying, “They don’t want to pass the ball.”

Tatum shared that he talked with Smart about his comments the following day, which he called a “great talk.”

“It caught me off guard, for sure,” Tatum said. “I think you have to understand with being in the NBA, especially sometimes after — we’d just blown a [19]-point lead to Chicago. This is the beginning of the season, we’re probably like 2-5 and everyone’s frustrated. We’re all probably on edge a little bit. So when I [saw] it, I wasn’t angry. I wasn’t mad or anything. I just waited until the next day.

“I saw Smart at the facility, and we sat down and talked. I think it was a great talk, actually. We had some time to sleep, the adrenaline was going from the game. He apologized for what he said and that it was something he shouldn’t have said in the media and they got his words mixed up or whatever.

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“I didn’t take offense. I started off by saying, ‘Listen bro, I make mistakes. I’ve still got a long way to go from where I’m trying to get to.’ I think we ended the conversation on, ‘We’re all in this together. We’re on the same team. We’re tying to figure it out.’

“Obviously, saying certain things like that in the media doesn’t help anybody’s case because that’s all they talk about for the next week or so when they’re referring to the Celtics. It wasn’t the end of the world. No harm. No foul. We’re past it out now. “

The Celtics appear to have moved past their early-season struggles, too. After falling to 25-25, the Celtics won nine straight games before losing to the Pistons on Wednesday, moving them out of the play-in portion of the Eastern Conference standings. Entering the All-Star break, the Celtics are a half-game ahead of the Raptors for the sixth seed, the last secured playoff spot before the play-ins, and are just two games out of the three seed.

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