As of Thursday, Nov. 4, the Boston Celtics are 3-5. Not a great start. Apparently it’s so bad that according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, the team had a players only meeting.
Reporting for NBA Countdown on the Celtics holding a players-only meeting in Orlando – and how there remains a lot of work to be done among franchise’s key players. pic.twitter.com/1fQ7VmDsdC
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) November 3, 2021
This meeting was on the heels of the Celtics’ collapse against the Chicago Bulls on Monday, Nov. 1, and the explosive postgame comments by Celtics’ veteran guard Marcus Smart. He threw teammates Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum under the bus for ball hogging, and also called out first-year head coach Ime Udoka for the team’s offensive predictability late in games.
The meeting took place ahead of the Wednesday, Nov. 3, game against the Orlando Magic, a Celtics win. Jaylen Brown, who hadn’t spoken to the media since Smart’s comments, offered his perspective:
“Obviously in the midst of trying to win games, it’s something that we probably didn’t need,” Brown said. “But we all communicate and talk to each other. So we’re always trying to find ways to win and I’m open to any and everything when guys bring it to me, coaching staff. I’m always watching film trying to better myself and be a better basketball player and find ways to make my teammates better. So it felt good to get a win today.”
It doesn’t sound like Brown was happy with Smart’s comments.
Boston’s struggles are notable on the defensive end of the floor. With two talented wings in Brown, Tatum, a defensive ace at the point of attack like Smart, and a rim protector in Robert Williams, this should be a top 10-12 defense.
Small sample size, but before the Orlando game, the Celtics were 20th in defensive rating, according to nba.com. Again, it’s only eight games in, and they are implementing a new system with Udoka. There’s plenty of time to right the ship, but the players all need to be on the same page and that’s not clear at the moment.
Tatum is struggling offensively and with Brown looking better on that end of the floor thus far, that is likely a source of tension.
Brown is averaging 27 ppg on 50/37/77 shooting splits, compared to Tatum who is averaging 24 ppg on abysmal 38/26/75 shooting splits. The advanced stats aren’t pretty for Tatum either. His eFG%, TS% and WS/48 are at career lows, while Brown is at a career high in the same categories.
Both players were the number-three pick in their respective drafts, Brown in 2016 and Tatum in 2017. Tatum is a 2X All-Star and has been named All-NBA. Brown has also made an All-Star team. Tatum was the more heralded player and more advanced offensively in the early part of their tenure as teammates.
That gap has closed significantly, and the question is, should Tatum be receiving the bulk of the shots or is Brown worthy of being a co-lead? The answer is yes. You could even make the case that Brown should be the lead on nights he’s really got it going.
This has been brewing for the last couple of years. You have to wonder if the tensions we are seeing bubbling over now in public played a role in Brad Stevens’ move from the bench to the front office? Maybe he saw the writing on the wall.
Regardless, the job of turning things around is on Udoka and the players. Brown and Tatum must develop into leaders in every sense of the word.
“I can do a lot of things better,” Brown said. “Try to find ways to get guys going, talking to Jayson, trying to find ways to get him going. Just making our teammates better. I think that’s part of being a leader and things like that. I still have a lot of growth to do that I’m actively working on. But that’s my challenge and I’m focusing my energy on that. Just continuing to watch film and get better and see how I can make my teammates better.”
Brown sounds like someone who believes he is a leader, if not the leader. We heard from Smart and know where he stands. Tatum has been quiet since the firestorm started on Monday. It’ll be curious to see how he responds.