BOSTON -- As the Boston Celtics were nearing the end of their morning shoot-around prior to tonight’s game against the Washington Wizards, Jaylen Brown and Danny Ainge, with Marcus Smart around as well, had a conversation off to the side of the practice court.
If you’re around this team long enough, you’ll find Ainge, the team’s President of Basketball Operations, having these kind of conversations often with his players.
When asked about the conversation, Brown made it clear that the conversation had more to do with Ainge offering him perspective on what has been a difficult year for both Brown and the Celtics.
Many players' roles have changed, but few have had a bigger adjustment than Brown who went from being a starter, the No. 2 scorer to Kyrie Irving and a player with elite two-way potential, to a reserve sharing minutes off the bench with Gordon Hayward.
And then there’s the criticism from fans and the media, not to mention the occasional dust-up in the middle of games between Brown and his teammates.
Ainge, a former NBA player and coach prior to assuming a front-office position with Boston, knows all too well about the bumps along the way that all players deal with in their early years in the NBA.
That’s why Brown values moments like this morning when Ainge's words served as a reminder to Brown to keep all that’s going on in perspective.
"It’s appreciative,” said Brown, who added that Ainge also praised him for how he has handled all the ups and downs of this season. “Some GMs might not say anything to you. So I appreciate him. I try to listen to everybody, hear from everybody and their perspective. You can learn something from anybody if you listen. So, Danny’s definitely one of the people in my ear that I’m tuned in to, just because of his position and what he’s been through.”
Brown said this wasn’t the first time Ainge delivered a pep talk of sorts to him.
“I remember my rookie year, there was a point … I just came off a good stretch, had played against LeBron (James), started, had a few good games or whatever,” Brown said. “And then I had a few terrible games right after that. And he (Ainge) came up to me … and said, ‘This is a part of your growth, so all these experiences now, you’re going to learn from and grow from. And it’s gonna be a year or two where everything is going to be perfect, you’ll be in a great situation and be able to display your talent to your full capability. But until then, you have to work for those moments.' ”
And while Brown has had his share of critics this season, he has been among the more consistent players for the Celtics of late with his season numbers looking eerily similar to how he performed in February.
It is that consistency that gives both Brown and the Celtics optimism that the struggles that have bogged them down of late — they come into tonight’s game against Washington having lost four in a row — won’t be as big an issue as they continue to focus on playing better to close out the regular season and head into the postseason with the focus on playing some of their best basketball as a group.
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“That’s the goal,” Hayward told NBC Sports Boston. “You want to do well in the playoffs, obviously. That’s what you play for, to win a championship. But you want to go into the playoffs with some momentum, playing good basketball. That’s the goal.”
A goal that Brown is on board with even with an increased level of criticism levied his way.
“I don’t get paid to complain; I get paid to play basketball,” Brown said. “Whatever the temperature is, whatever the climate is (of the team), you have to continue to come out and play basketball and play hard. You’re representing a lot. I’m representing my family, representing my community, representing the Boston Celtics. So, I want to come out and make everybody happy with my play at least.”
And when it comes to assessing the team currently, Brown politely takes a pass on answering that question directly.
“I wouldn’t evaluate it,” Brown said. “Everybody knows and everybody has seen the ups and downs and how we’ve struggled so I’m not going to speak on it. I’m just hoping today is a new day, we gotta game today and I want to win. That’s what I’m looking forward to doing tonight (against the Wizards).”
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