Celtics

Jaylen Brown 'couldn’t stop smiling' after arriving in South Africa

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Jaylen Brown 'couldn’t stop smiling' after arriving in South Africa

BOSTON – One of the first things Jaylen Brown picked up on when he arrived in Boston a year ago was that every player had to figure out what their role would be in order to help the Celtics, even if that meant putting some skills on the backburner.

A year older, wiser, stronger – both mentally and physically – has Brown eager to show a more well-rounded game. The folks in Africa are likely to get an up-close look at as Brown and several other NBA players participate in a Team Africa vs Team World game to be played on Saturday at the Ticketpro Dome in Johannesburg, South Africa as part of the NBA's Basketball Without Borders program.

Team Africa’s roster will include players born in Africa as well as second-generation African players. Their team captain will be Luol Deng (Los Angeles Lakers; South Sudan). Other members on the Team Africa roster are Thabo Sefolosha (Utah Jazz; Switzerland; parent from South Africa); Bismack Biyombo (Orlando Magic; Democratic Republic of the Congo); Clint Capela (Houston Rockets; Switzerland; parents from Angola and Congo); Gorgui Dieng (Minnesota Timberwolves; Senegal; BWB Africa 2009); Joel Embiid (Philadelphia 76ers; Cameroon; BWB Africa 2011); Serge Ibaka (Toronto Raptors; Congo); Luc Mbah a Moute (Houston Rockets; Cameroon; BWB Africa 2003), Salah Mejri (Dallas Mavericks; Tunisia), Emmanuel Mudiay (Denver Nuggets; Democratic Republic of the Congo), Victor Oladipo (Indiana Pacers; U.S.; parent from Nigeria) and Dennis Schroder (Atlanta Hawks; Germany; parent from The Gambia).

Dirk Nowitzki (Mavericks; Germany) will serve as the captain of Team World which in addition to Brown, consists of the following players:

Kemba Walker (Charlotte Hornets; U.S.); Leandro Barbosa (most recently with the Phoenix Suns; Brazil); Wilson Chandler (Denver Nuggets; U.S.); DeMarcus Cousins (New Orleans Pelicans; U.S.);  Andre Drummond (Detroit Pistons; U.S.); Courtney Lee (New York Knicks; U.S.); Kyle Lowry (Raptors; U.S.), CJ McCollum (Portland Trail Blazers; U.S.) and Kristaps Porzingis (Knicks; Latvia).

Proceeds from the game will be used to support UNICEF, the Nelson Mandela Foundation and SOS Children’s Villages South Africa (SOSCVSA).

Brown said this is the first time he has been to Africa, a trip that he will be experiencing along with his mother.

“I’m happy to be here,” Brown said in a conference call with reporters on Thursday. “They invited me and I jumped on it. So far, we’re enjoying the trip.”

This trip is just the latest installment of what has been a summer filled with moments that show Brown’s growth into being more than just a talented basketball player.

During summer league he organized a get-together among the younger players that was well-received.

He was part of an earlier NBA-related trip to London and Spain.

But this trip is, well, different.

The 20-year-old has a keen eye for history, and is aware of the problems experienced by the South Africa under Apartheid rule which ended in 1994.

But South Africa has made progress since then, and that growth was evident from the moment Brown landed in Johannesburg, South Africa.

“I couldn’t stop smiling” was how Brown described his initial thoughts on the city upon his arrival.

Although Brown is thousands of miles away from home, there’s a familial feel about being in South Africa.

“It doesn’t feel like how people depict Africa is supposed to be,” Brown said. “It feels like a city, a regular city where they have everything. They just have a lot more Black people, to be honest. That’s what it feels like; a regular city, kind of like home.”

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Baynes in Celtics starting lineup in battle with Whiteside

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Baynes in Celtics starting lineup in battle with Whiteside

Brad Stevens has said on more than one occasion the Boston Celtics’ starting lineup may fluctuate based upon who they play which is indeed the case against the Miami Heat tonight.

Stevens said 6-foot-11 center Aron Baynes will replace Marcus Morris in the starting lineup tonight to help battle Miami 7-footer Hassan Whiteside. He will join a unit that includes Kyrie Irving, Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum and Al Horford.

Boston defeated Miami earlier this season 96-90, but Whiteside did not play due to injury.

“We’ve mixed and matched all year with our starters,” Stevens told reporters.

Regardless of who the Celtics were playing tonight, there was a good chance that Baynes would be in the starting lineup for Morris who is having some more soreness in his left knee which sidelined him for the first eight games of the season.

Morris, who has started the last four games and seven of the last eight, is questionable to play tonight.

“We’ve been trying to manage his minutes the best that we can,” Stevens said. “But for whatever reason, he had a little bit (of soreness) in Dallas. He feels a lot better, two days later. But we want to make sure.”

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Streak reveals depth even Celtics didn't know they had

Streak reveals depth even Celtics didn't know they had

Coaches in all sports will tell you that winning is not easy.
 
Making the Celtics’ 16-game winning streak even more impressive is that a number of the victories have involved Boston turning to some unlikely sources of production.

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And that has provided a glimpse into a franchise that’s getting the best of both worlds: quality play from its core group while developing reserves who have contributed to the team reeling off 16 straight wins in a variety of ways.
 
Because coach Brad Stevens has gone deeper into his bench this season than past years, it has created a roster with minutes more evenly distributed and with that, less wear and tear on the bodies of key players.
 
And while this team is led by Kyrie Irving and Al Horford, there has been at least one other Celtic to emerge as a top-three performer every night...and often it’s not the same player.
 
“Much more unpredictable now,” a league executive texted to NBC Sports Boston. “That number three guy, is it [Jaylen] Brown? [Jayson] Tatum? Sometimes it’s Marcus [Smart]. You don’t know who it’s going to be because a lot of times, I don’t think they [Celtics] know who it will be. It’s why they’re so good, man.”
 
Here are five under-the-radar storylines heading into tonight’s game in Miami with the Celtics trying to push their winning streak to 17:

KYRIE FOR MVP
It’s one thing for the home crowd to get into the ‘M-V-P’ chants when you’re at the free-throw line. But it’s a completely different matter when those same cheers are being heard on the road. That’s where Irving was following the 110-102 overtime win at Dallas, a game in which Irving dropped 47 points, 10 in overtime. It’ll be interesting to see if another strong game by Irving will lead to another serenading of ‘M-V-P’ chants for the most dominant player on the team with the league’s best record.


 
TURNING DOWN THE HEAT
The streak is the talk of the NBA right now, but streaking was going to be part of the conversation leading up to tonight’s game regardless. The Celtics come into tonight’s game having won eight in a row over the Heat, their longest current winning streak over any team. Boston has dominated this matchup for years, posting a 70-44 record all-time against Miami in the regular season.
 

DUKE CONNECTION
College basketball just kicked off and Duke is once again among the game’s top teams, a school that consistently produces NBA talent at a relatively high level. That’ll be very apparent tonight when you consider this Boston-Miami matchup features three players (Kyrie Irving and Jayson Tatum for Boston, Justise Winslow for Miami) from Duke who will all be in the starting lineup and a fourth (Boston’s Semi Ojeleye) who attended Duke but later transferred to SMU.


 
JUSTISE WINSLOW
Every front-office executive has that one player they tried – and failed – to acquire that, in hindsight, not getting him was a really good thing. Winslow is that guy for the Celtics. While he hasn’t been necessarily a bust, his impact at this level hasn’t been enough to have warranted all the assets Boston was willing to part with on draft night in order to move up and select him. Still, he’s healthy now and starting to play better which is evident by his numbers in most offensive categories on the rise, while his defense has been relatively solid.
 

THREE-POINTERS
The Heat have made the 3-point shot a much bigger part of their offense this season, evident by Miami ranking seventh in the league in 3-point makes (11.2) this season. In Boston, one of the keys to their top-ranked defense has been their length, which has come in real handy defending the 3-pointer. In fact, Boston has limited opponents to just 32.1 percent shooting on 3’s this season, which ranks third in the league.

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