Celtics Exit Interviews: Jaylen Brown at a crossroads

Celtics Exit Interviews: Jaylen Brown at a crossroads

BOSTON -- After a solid rookie season in 2017, Jaylen Brown avoided the sophomore slump the following season and instead had a surge toward becoming a starter and the Celtics’ best scorer not named Kyrie Irving.

There was growth in Year 3, but not how Brown or the Celtics envisioned.

After struggling at first to wholeheartedly embrace a new role that saw him go from starting to coming off the bench, Brown learned a vital lesson about playing time.

The better you play, the more you get.

And it is a lesson that will serve him well heading into this offseason, which has some life-altering potential.

While his numbers took a dip, Brown’s value for this team may not be any higher than it is now.

With three years under his belt, Brown has done enough to where teams no longer see him as an unknown commodity whose value is heavily intertwined with potential.

“He’s what, 22 years old?” a Western Conference scout told NBC Sports Boston. “You don’t see him as your star per se, but there’s a lot to like about Jaylen’s game. And looking from the outside at how things were with the Celtics, I think there’s a great amount of respect for him as a person, too.”

The internal struggles that led to the Celtics flaming out in the second round of the playoffs have become a well-talked about topic.

Terry Rozier has not held back on his thoughts as to what some of the issues were. Most recently, Aron Baynes discussed the team’s “flip the switch” approach to the playoffs and how that was a recipe for disaster which played out before our very eyes.

Even the good folks at Bleacher Report covered the Celtics’ issues via their “Game of Zones” animated series, which takes a hilarious poke at the chemistry problems that seemed to haunt team all season.

So, what does it all mean to Brown?

Brown’s approach to this offseason has to be no different than what it has been each of the previous two. That is, to become a better all-around player because the one thing he has shown thus far in his career is that he’s good at many things but great at none.

In three seasons, Brown has never averaged more than 1.6 assists per game so the need to get others involved and step up his play-making is important.

A good chunk of his turnovers come from losing control of the ball while dribbling, so tightening up his handle will surely be an area in need of improvement this summer.

Brown could also work to become a better defender, the one thing many expected would not be a major issue for him in the NBA due to his length, athleticism and clear desire in college to make an impact at that end of the floor.

And then there’s the potential contract extension that Brown is eligible for before the start of next season.

Brown, who does not have an agent, hopes to talk about the Celtics at some point this summer about a new deal.

With or without an extension, Brown’s game is indeed trending in the right direction.

“I’m 22 years old. I know I have a lot to learn,” Brown said shortly after the Celtics season ended. “I know the older guys on our team, I think they feel the same thing. They got a lot to learn, too. So, that’s a part of it; everybody growing.”

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Kemba Walker ready to adjust his role and share the scoring with his new Celtics teammates

Kemba Walker ready to adjust his role and share the scoring with his new Celtics teammates

Celtics point guard Kemba Walker admits that, in order for his new team to maximize its potential, he needs to alter his offensive approach. Fresh off inking his max contract, the eight-year veteran said he’s on board with deferring to the new talent that now surrounds him.

“[My role] does [need to change], and I’m looking forward to it,” Walker said on the latest Celtics Talk Podcast. "It’s something new. It’s not as big of a burden, I feel like, on my back. It’s like, I had to be perfect every night in Charlotte. Had to be. I had to have a great game, offensively, if not, it will be a struggle for us to win. Like I said, with the personnel, we have on this team and the way these guys can score, it’ll be different.”

The Celtics landed Walker on a four-year, $141 million deal. With the Hornets, Walker was forced to shoulder much of the scoring burden and sometimes even big outputs weren’t enough to will Charlotte to wins (Walker had seven games of 40-plus points last season and Charlotte lost six of them, the only win coming against Boston).

Walker ranked ninth in the NBA in usage rate last season at 30.8 percent. That was one spot ahead of ball-dominant Russell Westbrook and two spots ahead of Kawhi Leonard. Which is to say that Walker is used to finishing possessions but seems on board with giving it up more. Kyrie Irving ranked 17th in the NBA in usage at 28.6 last year.

Walker cited young players Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown as reasons he wanted to come to Boston and he’s eager to use his talents to get them scoring opportunities. A healthier Gordon Hayward is going to demand more possessions as well and the team can lean on his ball-handling skills, especially when Walker isn’t on the court.

Walker said he’s excited about the potential. 

"I think there will be a lot of space. I’m a willing passer as well. I’m very unselfish,” said Walker. "I love to score, don’t get it twisted. Whenever I have an opportunity to score, I’m going to score. But, when I draw defenders and see open guys, I’m going to get rid of that thing. I’m excited. I’m looking forward to kinda changing my game as well, just giving the ball up a lot more.”

Coming off a season in which Irving’s missteps as a leader contributed to friction with younger players, Walker’s arrival begs the question of whether he can maximize their talents. While he’s expressed a desire to help those players grow — while also suggesting that he yearns to learn from them and their playoff experiences -- Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge remains staunch that Walker simply needs to be the best version of himself.

"I don't really look for other people to draw out anything from anybody,” said Ainge. "I expect him to be at his best, that's all. Work hard and be who he is. He doesn't have to try to draw anything out from any of the other guys...It's not anybody's responsibility to draw the best out in every other player.”

Added Ainge: "I see Kemba as a good fit with anybody. He's a really good player. He's smart and is experienced and wants to win. He's accomplished a lot of things individually and he just really hasn't been able to accomplish the team goals since winning the national championship in college. But I think that's what he is hoping for. He's at the stage of his life where that's all that matters.”

Walker landed on the All-NBA third team this past season. He averaged a career-best 25.6 points per game but has shot just 41.8 percent from the floor from his career and 35.7 percent beyond the arc. The Celtics are hoping that with more skill around him, Walker can ratchet up his overall efficiency. He averaged 5.9 assists per game last season and that number could spike if Tatum, Brown, and Hayward elevate their offensive output this season.

It is, of course, easier to say you want to morph your game in July than it is to actually do it on the court in October. But Walker has repeatedly stressed a desire to win after limited playoff exposure in Charlotte. Given some of the losses on the defensive side of the ball, particularly in the frontcourt, it’s imperative that the Celtics play with high efficiency on the offensive end. Walker’s ability to maximize opportunities for himself and his teammates could be key in Boston’s success in the 2019-20 season.

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NBA Rumors: Clippers offered Marcus Morris large contract at start of free agency

NBA Rumors: Clippers offered Marcus Morris large contract at start of free agency

It's been a tumultuous offseason for Marcus Morris.

The former Celtics forward stirred up some controversy when he backed out of his agreement with the Spurs to sign with the Knicks in free agency. San Antonio offered Morris a two-year, $20 million deal, but he ultimately chose New York's one-year, $15 million offer instead.

That decision led to Morris parting ways with his agent, Rich Paul, and the Spurs reportedly being "pissed" about the 29-year-old's change of heart.

Apparently, San Antonio's offer wasn't the only one Morris turned down. According to Frank Isola of The Athletic, he also declined a three-year, $41 million offer from the Clippers at the start of free agency.

Isola writes:

Morris, however, lost out on a much more lucrative contract with the LA Clippers, who were prepared to pay him $41 million over three seasons. A Clippers source said the three-year deal included a provision for Morris to receive 50 percent of his salary on Oct. 1.

Morris was hoping to earn $40 million over two years but the Clippers couldn’t offer that deal if they wanted to sign Kawhi Leonard to a max contract. Once Morris took that stance, the Clippers moved on and acquired Portland’s Maurice Harkless in a four-team trade that included Jimmy Butler signing with the Miami Heat. Harkless will earn $11 million next season, or $2 million less than what Morris would have made with the Clippers.

The Clippers certainly aren't losing sleep over Morris declining their offer. They went on to sign superstar Kawhi Leonard and trade for another star in Paul George.

As for Morris, he might regret overestimating his market value early in the offseason. Fortunately for him, he'll get another shot at it next July with a new agent.