The Boston Celtics entered this season hoping to build on an Eastern Conference Finals appearance in the Bubble, following the lead of their two young stars on the wing in Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. Those two earned All-Star nods this week, but the team success hasn’t matched up, as Boston has scuffled to a 15-17 start as the end of the first half of the season nears.
Most recently, the Celtics fell flat against the Hawks in Atlanta on Wednesday night, a third straight loss that dropped them to ninth in the East and into play-in position. On Thursday, Tatum spoke with Dime as part of his new Ruffles Chip Deal, and the two-time All-Star is remaining optimistic about this season, noting that he’s taking comfort in the fact that the conversations they’re having are productive and everyone on the team is on the same page of wanting to turn this season around in the second half.
You’re in a rough patch right now as a team and, I know you’ve been asked a million times, ‘How do you fix it?’ and if you had an answer, y’all would do it. But what are the conversations you guys are having about what you need to do to figure out what’s going on and the adjustments that y’all need to make to get back on track and get back to where you guys were at the end of last year?
The conversations are productive. You know we have … we’re in good spirits. We enjoy being around each other. We got good chemistry. We care. We want to fix the problem. So I think that’s a good sign. It’s not like guys don’t enjoy playing with each other or not gettin’ along, this and that and chemistry issues. We all want better and want to fix it. So, I think that’s the positive that I’m taking from it. That we care. The guys in the locker room, they care.
For yourself, something I talked with with Damian Lillard about before this season is once you get to the All-Star level, it’s all about being willing to be self-critical because that’s where you can really start to target weaknesses that that exist in in small parts your game and continue to grow. What are the things that you’ve learned over the last couple years about that process, and really learning to kind of pick your own game apart so that you can continue to find ways to get better?
Yeah, I think that’s the goal for each and every season. Obviously, you know, bein’ an All Star twice is a big deal at this age and something that I’m proud of, but it’s far from you know the end goal. It’s far from where I want to be. This is just, you know, something I’ve always dreamed of and something I always told myself that I was going to do. And I’m always setting goals for myself that I’m trying to achieve and check off the box. So I know that it can’t stop here. I can’t be satisfied here, that I still got a ways to go.
Are there things that you can point to that you’re particularly proud of being able to add to your game since you’ve come in as a rookie and that are part of that process that you’re going on?
I mean, I think I feel like I’ve gotten better in all aspects. I’ve gotten, with my body, I’ve gotten stronger. I think mentally I understand the game a lot better now than I did when I first got drafted. Play-making for others, being a two-way player. I think the list can continue going on and on.
Obviously this season is one that’s not like anything that you’ve been through. Can you explain the differences, particularly when you’re on the road, and what it’s like with the traveling and the protocols and the testing and everything that you go through and the adjustments that you have to make to changing your routine to kind of fit into this new world?
Yeah, it’s different. We take the service elevator and kind of go through the back. You got to get tested and wait an hour for your results in the morning before we can be around each other to go for shootaround and the team meeting. Then you gotta get tested after the game, you know, before you leave the arena. You can’t go out to eat. You can’t go see friends or have someone come see you as if you have family in a certain city. So it’s definitely different.
I remember the video last year from the Bubble of when Deuce and your family were finally able to come in. What does it mean for you being a father and being able to go home to that, even when you have a tough game or like this season it’s been a little more difficult, but you have that at home and how does that kind of shift your perspective, even when there might be a rough patch on the court?
That puts things in perspective of kind of what’s really important in life, and whether if I have a good game or a bad game, he doesn’t know. When I come home and it’s just all about, you know, daddy’s home and let’s make a slushie, or let’s read a book, or let’s play. And it just it really takes my mind off everything else, and I’m very, very happy that I’m in that position.
You’ve got this new partnership with Ruffles. How did that come about, as you’re the second one joining Anthony Davis in getting a chip deal?
Yeah. For me, you know when I’m doing a partnership, I like to do things that are natural and genuine and organic. You know I love chips, and I’ve been eating chips ever since I was a kid. I remember going to stores, when I was younger and grabbing, you know, bags of Ruffles chips. Like you said, I remember last year when Anthony Davis had his chip partnership and I remember seeing it especially at All-Star, and I just thought that was really really cool. And I was like, you know, if that opportunity ever presented itself that I would love to be a part of it and it did. And I’m super grateful and thankful to be a part of the Ruffles family.
You’re doing the Own Your Ridges campaign about embracing being yourself. When you come into the league you have so many demands and people coming to you for stuff, what have you learned about just making sure that you stay your authentic self, on and off the court as a pro?
Yeah, talking about Owning Your Ridges, and I think it has a lot to do with how you were raised how you were brought up. You know I think being from St. Louis has a lot to do the type of person that I am. My mindset, how I approach things on and off the court and just having a good, stable family foundation around you. Good, genuine people that have the best interest for you and care about you. You know cause there’s a lot of, obviously, there’s a lot of things that could bring you down when you kind of get to this level. So just having a good support system.
You’re launching the Flamin’ Hot BBQ Ruffles and I just have to ask how that flavor combo works?
Yeah, you know, they’re delicious. For me personally, I love spicy food. Anything I’m eating that I could give it that extra kick to it, you know I’m all for that. And I’m from St. Louis and St. Louis is known for barbecue, so mixing those together make for a great combination.