CHICAGO — Celtics forward Jayson Tatum and guard Derrick White were talking in the locker room recently when the conversation shifted toward technical fouls. Tatum has developed a bit of a reputation for collecting them for complaining to officials. He was called for a career-high 14 technicals last season and appeared to be on a similar track at the start of this year.
He even received two technicals and was ejected from Boston’s preseason game against the Raptors in Montreal — an extremely rare event in an exhibition — although those do not count toward the 16 needed to receive a one-game suspension.
Tatum insists he is trying to get better, but White was skeptical. Also, he wanted to give Tatum some incentive to keep his tally at a manageable level. The Celtics aren’t helped by giving out charity points, and they certainly don’t want to lose Tatum for a game this spring.
So White proposed a bet.
“I was just like, ‘I don’t think you can stay under 10,’ ” White recalled. “And he said, ‘I’m going to get under 10.’ That’s how it all started. I mean, 10 is a lot, but he gets a lot of quick ones, so you never know. I’m trying to help him save money.”
(Players are fined $2,000 for each of their first five technicals and $3,000 for each of the five after that.)
White said the two have yet to finalize the terms of their wager. He’s hoping to wait until Tatum’s trajectory is a little clearer, even if that’s a shady way to determine a bet structure.
“It’s fluid,” White said with a chuckle.
The payout, if there even is one, won’t really matter, of course, but Tatum is a competitor, and he won’t want to lose, especially if his defeat is caused by his own bad behavior.
“I don’t know how much he’s really thinking about it during the games, but it’s a free point,” White said. “Obviously, he got ejected in the preseason, so just trying to keep him on the floor as much as possible. He does a good job of controlling everything, so it’s just a fun game we’re playing.”
Tatum enters Monday night’s game against the Bulls with two technicals over 16 games this season, tied for 17th most in the NBA, and one fewer than teammate Grant Williams.
Tatum’s tally was briefly a bit higher. With 10 minutes, 56 seconds left in Boston’s win over the Thunder last Monday, he was called for a foul after shoving Oklahoma City big man Aleksej Pokusevski. Afterward, he glanced toward the referee who made the call and clapped his hands in frustration, drawing another technical, what would have been his third of the year.
On Twitter that night, NBA stars such as Kevin Durant and Ja Morant posted that they were puzzled by the call against Tatum.
“I’d just missed the layup and I just committed a foul,” Tatum said. “Anybody in the arena, anybody watching the game could have seen it. I was frustrated with myself. I didn’t say anything. I didn’t look at him.”
The NBA eventually agreed with Tatum’s defense, as it rescinded the technical foul Tuesday. That bumped the total back to two and gave him a boost in his quest to stay below 10.
“They made a mistake and they owned up to it,” Tatum said. “That’s all you probably can ask for. But I had a good feeling they probably would after reviewing it.”
White, for one, understood the decision, even if it dented his chances of winning his friendly wager.
“He definitely deserved to get that one rescinded,” White said.