BOSTON – Jaylen Brown returns to a familiar role as a player off the Boston Celtics’ bench.
But having filled in for Avery Bradley as a starter has provided an already confident Brown an even bigger boost of confidence that his play is good enough to make a significant impact right now.
The Celtics will certainly need Brown among others to step up on Wednesday night when Boston hosts the defending NBA champion Cleveland Cavaliers.
Whether he’s starting or coming off the bench, Brown says his approach to playing remains the same.
“Just do my job,” Brown said. “It doesn’t really change. I used to come off the bench before Avery got hurt.”
And has shown his versatility by starting at times as a small forward (for an injured Jae Crowder) or at shooting guard for Bradley.
Brown’s first NBA start came at Cleveland in November, a high-scoring affair that ended in a 128-122 loss.
In that game, Brown scored a career-high 19 points on 8-for-16 shooting from the field to go with five rebounds and three steals.
That was good to see.
Not so much.
Having missed 18 straight games offered Bradley an opportunity to sit back and watch his teammates more closely.
Bradley paid particular attention to Brown who has made significant progress in his overall game, but especially in his defense.
“That was something that he struggled with at the beginning of the year,” Bradley said. “As you guys know, it’s all about opportunity, learning the game and having confidence. That’s what he’s playing with right now.”
When asked to elaborate on Brown’s progress defensively, Bradley jokingly said, “staying on his guy.”
Bradley added, “We still make jokes every now and then when he messes up, but his desire to want to learn every single game, play as hard as he can, I respect him for that. Like I said, he’s playing well.”
And being with the starters has allowed Brown to continue expanding his game in ways that few anticipated he could this quickly.
In Boston’s 104-98 win at Detroit, it was a last-second 3-pointer by Brown that proved to be the difference-maker for the Celtics, the kind of shot that he would not have gotten an opportunity to take if not for playing well as a starter.
He has 15 starts this season, averaging 9.3 points, 4.1 rebounds and 1.1 assists in 24.2 minutes per game which includes him shooting 35.9 percent from 3-point range.
“I got a lot more comfortable being on the floor with Al (Horford), Jae (Crowder) and IT (Isaiah Thomas),” Brown said. “I got a rhythm a little bit.”
And he hopes to keep it going for the rest of the season and into the playoffs, regardless of whether he’s starting or coming off the bench.
His comfort level is certainly a big part of his play. But just as vital has been the increased confidence that he’s playing with now.
“I think it’s at an all-time high,” Brown said. “I’ve always been a confident guy. When you see a few shots go in, you get little more confidence.”