Celtics

Why Jayson Tatum preferred Suns to Celtics before 2017 NBA Draft

(Getty Images)

The Celtics were in a great spot heading into the 2017 NBA Draft, holding the No. 1 overall pick on the heels of a surprise run to the Eastern Conference Finals. With a rising star in head coach Brad Stevens and potential of cap space to add big names, any player added by the Celtics had the potential at the top of the draft had the plenty to be playing some pretty important games right away.

In the predraft process during 2017, Jayson Tatum saw the down side of the Cs situation for a rookie, however. He spoke about it in greater depth on Monday during an appearance on the “All the Smoke” podcast with former players Stephen Jackson and Matt Barnes. The future All-Star saw all the talent on the wings in Boston and wondered how exactly he might fit in after the C's traded down with Philadelphia to the No. 3 overall pick.

“There was a part of me that didn’t want to go to Boston because they just were the No. 1 team in the East, they had Isaiah Thomas, Al Horford, Smart, [Jaylen Brown], Jae Crowder,” said Tatum. "I was like, ‘Man, I’m not going to play. I’m trying to get buckets.’

That mentality led to Tatum feeling some hesitancy when the Celtics asked him for a workout the week before the draft. The former Duke star had just spent a couple of days working out for Phoenix, who was armed with the No. 4 overall pick and was in need of a second option next to young guard Devin Booker. 

“This is a week before the draft, I went to Phoenix just to meet with Earl Watson and talk to the GM and see the facility,” said Tatum. "I didn’t work out, I just went to go meet with everybody. I went to dinner with Earl, I remember he picked me up, he had a white [Mercedes-Benz] G-[Class] wagon, he drove me around, he showed me all the houses where the players live at. I called my mom, I’m like, ‘Yo, I think I want to go to Phoenix.’ Earl Watson was like, ‘You come to Phoenix, you and D-Book, two light-skinned killers, I’m going to let y’all rock out.’ I’m sitting in the car I’m like, ‘Man this sounds good. Like, I think I want to come here.’”

When Tatum realized the Celtics were taking a strong look at him after dropping to No. 3 overall, he wondered if he might be better off skipping a workout with them to persuade them to look elsewhere.

"So I get back to my hotel [in Phoenix], I’m about to fly back home for like two days before I go to New York [for the draft] and my agent called me and he’s like, ‘Danny Ainge called and said they’re going to trade their [No. 1] pick, they’re going to go to 3 and they want you to come to Boston the next day to work out,’” Tatum said. "I’m like, ‘No, I don’t want to go to Boston. I like it out here in Phoenix. It’s cool. The weather is nice. I get a big house, I get a pool, my mom is going to be out here.’ [Tatum’s agent was] like, ‘Brad Stevens is a great young coach and they have a great history.’ I’m like, ‘I’m not trying to hear that. I want to go to Phoenix.’

"My agent was like, ‘Just think about it.’ So we hang up, I’m like, ‘I’m not going to this workout right now. I’m cool.’ But then Coach K called me right after my agent did and he was like, ‘Jayson, the Celtics called, they want you to come work out. I think Brad Stevens is a great coach and it’s a great place to be. You’ll learn a lot.’ So I’m like, ‘Ugh, all right. I’ll go.'"

Tatum proceeded to impress in his Boston workout and the rest is history.

“It worked out really well. I've really enjoyed being in Boston so far,” said Tatum. "Playing in the Garden is like no other place. The fans are amazing. Just looking up at the 17 championships that we have and all the great players that come before me. It’s crazy.”

The Celtics had already seen Tatum workout once in Los Angeles prior to the individual workout in the week so