NEW YORK -- Not even a full minute of court time had elapsed before Boston Celtics head coach Brad Stevens motioned to Marcus Smart to check into the game for Jaylen Brown.
To get the hook so early can stir a cauldron of the worst kind of emotions in any player, let alone a 20-year-old rookie. And yet the unexpected hook may have been just what Brown needed as he went on to have one of his better scoring games this season in Boston’s 110-94 win over the New York Knicks. Brown, who was getting the start in place of Avery Bradley (stomach flu), had 16 points on 5-for-6 shooting from the field.
Stevens was asked to explain the unusual decision to yank Brown out of the game at the 10:50 mark of the first quarter.
“Wanted to make a sub at that time,” Stevens said. “I thought he played really well the rest of the game. I didn’t think we started off the first possession the way we wanted to.”
Boston was ahead 3-0 when he made the lineup change, but the game had a very ragged feel about it early on without question despite Boston leading the entire game.
“I thought that it could have been any number of things,” Stevens said of the not-so-smooth start.
Brown said he wasn’t given an explanation as to exactly what he did or did not do during the first 60 or so seconds that prompted Stevens to give him an early hook.
But it couldn't have been a major issue considering Stevens went back to him with 3:41 to play in the first quarter.
And Brown was indeed a different player, scoring on a lob dunk (Marcus Smart on the assist) that put the Celtics ahead 24-13 just 34 seconds after he re-entered the game. As the game wore on, Brown didn’t look any worse for wear after the early benching, seemingly making the most of every opportunity he got on the floor to score in addition to playing good defense.
“I wasn’t going to let it throw me off,” Brown told CSNNE.com following the win.
And maybe that was the lesson for both coach and player.
For Brown, he showed an understanding of how to handle unexpected adversity and rather than let it set you back, use it as a jumping off point to be better both individually and within the framework of what’s best for the team.
And for Stevens, it was the kind of lesson that can only strengthen the trust factor that exists between himself and Brown, giving Stevens more concrete in-the-game examples of Brown’s ability to handle himself when things don’t go his way and there’s no clear reason for it.
For both, what happened on Sunday afternoon had a win-win ending.
“It’s tough,” Brown said of the unexpected benching. “You want to play basketball out there. It is what it is; just play basketball.”
Stevens added, “the way that he came back in and played is a great testament to who he is. That’s probably a lot more important.”