Jayson Tatum originally ‘didn’t really want to go to Boston’

Andy Hart
May 12, 2020 - 11:47 am

Before the coronavirus shut down the NBA season, Jayson Tatum was taking his game to a new level in Boston.

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The third-year Celtics All-Star was averaging 23.6 points per game for a Brad Stevens-led squad that was rolling toward another potential postseason run.

As much as Tatum is now entrenched as part of the Celtics’ core – alongside the likes of Jaylon Brown and Kemba Walker – the former Duke star wasn’t always sold on the idea that Boston was for him.

According to The Athletic (subscription), heading into the 2017 NBA Draft, Tatum was hopeful that he’d land with Phoenix, a Suns team that picked one spot behind the Celtics at No. 4 overall.

Tatum’s affinity for Phoenix came after a workout in which he wowed then-Suns coach Earl Watson, who dreamed up pairing him up with another rising star in Devin Booker.

Tatum told the All The Smoke Podcast, via the Athletic, that the Suns were his No. 1 option in part because of the Phoenix weather and opportunities to grow with that team.

“When I finally heard my name called it was by far the best day of my life because it was what I’d been working for, for 16 years,” Tatum said. “But there was a part of me that didn’t really want to go to Boston because they just were the No. 1 team in the East. They had Isaiah Thomas, Al Horford, (Marcus) Smart, (Jaylen Brown), Jae Crowder. I was like, man, I’m not going to play. I’m trying to get buckets. But everything worked out.”

It worked out for Boston, but certainly not for the Suns.

Watson was fired early in the 2017-18 season after Phoenix drafted Josh Jackson No. 4 overall. Jackson lasted just two seasons with the Suns before being traded.

“I was pushing Tatum,” Watson told The Athletic. “Like, we had to move up for Tatum, we had to get Tatum. And ownership chose Josh Jackson. … I knew the two players were dynamically different, but my vision was what’s the best fit for Devin Booker. Booker and Tatum, I think a combination like that right now would have been completely different than anything in the NBA at that age.”

Thankfully for Danny Ainge and the Celtics, Watson’s plan and Tatum’s desires never came to fruition.

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