Celtics

Celtics' Jaylen Brown emerging as powerful NBA voice in quest for change

Celtics' Jaylen Brown emerging as powerful NBA voice in quest for change

Once hesitant about the prospects of the NBA’s bubble, Boston Celtics forward Jaylen Brown has embraced the stage the restart has provided, both on the court but especially off, and has emerged as a powerful voice in the quest for change.

After the Celtics completed a lengthy offday workout on Wednesday night, a mask-clad Brown engaged in a thoughtful 12-minute Zoom session with reporters that only briefly touched on basketball subjects. Brown spent most of the session imploring people to vote and continuing his quest for social justice.

Download the MyTeams app for the latest Celtics news and analysis

"I’m only one person but I want to continue to use my platform and hopefully inspire others to make the right decisions and to treat each other equally,” said Brown. Later he punctuated one of his answers with the declaration, "I’m not going to be quiet.”

Make no mistake, basketball is a priority for Brown and he’s proven it by being maybe Boston’s best player during scrimmage play. Unlike many of his teammates, Brown displayed little rust and all the hard work he put in while the season was paused has positioned him to thrive when Boston plays the first of eight seeding games on Friday night against the East-leading Milwaukee Bucks.

But the more impressive part of Brown’s evolution has been off the court. The 23-year-old has confidently fielded tough questions about hot-button issues and offered thoughtful, detailed responses.

In late May, Brown drove 15 hours from Boston to Atlanta to lead a peaceful protest in the aftermath of George Floyd’s death. Earlier this month, as the Celtics prepared to travel to Orlando, Brown admitted he had hesitations about the NBA’s bubble plan but ultimately decided to embrace it because of the potential to be part of history, with players able to use the restart stage to promote real societal change.

Celtics coach Brad Stevens, who has often noted that Brown will accomplish far more off the court than on it during his lifetime, continues to marvel at the way Brown has used his platform.

“[Brown is] such a thoughtful, smart leader,” said Stevens. "And I'm glad he's with us.”

Brown has even used fashion to promote awareness, wearing a Martin Luther King Jr. T-shirt on the bench during Boston’s scrimmage finale on Tuesday night. On Wednesday, he was asked initially about what he had decided to wear on the back of his jersey for the restart, but first delivered a thoughtful two-minute statement.

"Before I get started, I want to continue to demand justice for Breonna Taylor,” said Brown. "I want that to continue to be reiterated while I’m down here. Also, I want to encourage people in my community to get out and vote, not just for the presidential election but state representatives, elected officials, et cetera. I think there’s a lot of power in coming together and voting, especially in the Black community. Politicians have made empty promises to the Black community year after year after year. They think that's OK and acceptable, and it’s not.

"I want to emphasize that we have to continue to vote, we have to come together and use our power, utilize it in the right manner. I want to inspire people from Georgia, where I’m from, Marietta, Gwinnett County, DeKalb County, Boston, Massachusetts, Dorchester, Roxbury, Oakland, East Oakland, West Oakland — wherever my influence reaches, I want people to continue to vote. There’s a lot of power in exercising that, and we gotta use it. I want to continue to exercise that.

“For sure, we have to get some of these guys out of office who don’t care, who don’t think it’s appropriate that we’re trying to end systemic racism. I want to make voting a trend, I want to use my platform, I want athletes to come together and continue to talk about it. I understand the apprehension from the African-American community. Politicians have made empty promises, as well people feeling like, ‘Why would I participate in a political system that hasn’t necessarily participated with me?' I believe in small victories, getting the right people in office, a big part of that is voting. Let’s continue to express that, let’s continue to lead in that direction.

"I want to use my platform to inspire people, using their influence, whatever color, whatever race, that voting is important but especially in the Black community, let’s exercise that power and get out and vote.”

Brown then said he is considering, “Liberation,” to wear on the back of his jersey during the bubble games while noting that, "The definition of liberation is free yourself from oppression, slavery, or marginalization. I wanted to represent that. This is the season to break free of some of those cycles.”

During Wednesday’s media session, Brown followed with long responses to questions about the importance of voting and the pursuit of justice for Taylor, who was fatally shot by police in Louisville after they raided her home.

"We all come from our moms, we all have sisters, aunts, nieces, et cetera, so not just with African-Americans not feeling comfortable in this American society, it’s a lot of women who don’t feel comfortable as well,” said Brown. "We want to continue to show our support for them for sure.

"I had a call with Tamika Palmer, which is Breonna Taylor’s mother, not too long ago, and it was — it was emotional for me. The fact that she can get on a call with a bunch of NBA guys and utilize her strength in front of us. We know she was hurting. That was her baby girl that's gone. Her daughter was killed. And for her to be able to get on a phone call and exhibit that strength in front of us and rally us up and let us know that we don’t want this to happen to the next girl or the next person or color, or woman of color, I stand with her.”

Teammates like Marcus Smart have also used their media time to promote change, with Smart simply repeating, “Justice for Breonna Taylor,” as his answer to every question during one session.

Brown is embracing this stage. He’s making people think, including those who might not otherwise ponder such topics. He’s ignoring those that scream for NBA players to, “Shut up and dribble,” and showing that NBA players can create change with their voices.

Don't miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-Bucks, which begins Friday at 5:30 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live followed by tip-off at 6:30 p.m. You can also stream on the MyTeams App.

Celtics Talk Podcast: Is Jaylen Brown going to dominate the bubble? | Listen & subscribe | Watch on YouTube

Enes Kanter Show: Celtics center praises Brad Stevens for explanation of less playing time

Enes Kanter Show: Celtics center praises Brad Stevens for explanation of less playing time

The Boston Celtics committed to Brad Stevens with a contract extension earlier this week, and it isn't difficult to see why.

The C's head coach has received rave reviews from players and staff who have had the opportunity to work alongside him in Boston over the last seven years. Not only has Stevens done a phenomenal job leading the team on the court, but possibly even more importantly, he's been able to connect with his players off of it.

Don't miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-76ers, which begins Monday at 5:30 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live followed by tip-off at 6:30 p.m. You can also stream the game on the MyTeams App.

In a brand new episode of the Enes Kanter Show, the Celtics center explains to Chris Forsberg what makes Stevens such a great head coach.

Enes Kanter Show: Celtics’ dodgeball games and getting ready to joust with Joel Embiid and the Sixers | Listen & subscribe | Watch on YouTube

"What makes him so special is what he does off the court," Kanter said about Stevens. "He's the type of coach that tells you what you need to hear, not what you want to hear. Always keeps it 100 percent real with you. More than a coach, he's just a friend, man. You can literally go to talk to him about anything."

Kanter, who has seen his minutes reduced lately in the Orlando bubble, praised Stevens for how he communicated with him about his decrease in playing time.

"There were some games where I was not playing a lot," said Kanter. "I went to his room and we talked, and he was like, 'Hey, listen, it's your ninth year now and there's so many young guys that are looking up to you. Your best strength is not the offensive rebound. Your best strength is not the post-ups, not the finishes and everything. Your best strength is just being a good teammate. Just trying to give positive energy. And that's what we need from you in the games where you don't play.'

"I mean, look, not every coach is comfortable talking to their players. The Celtics organization definitely feels very special to have him on our side ... It's a blessing to have a person like him on our team."

Also discussed on the show: The story behind the Celtics' dodgeball game in the bubble, Kanter's frustration at Jayson Tatum "being good at everything," and how the Celtics can slow down Joel Embiid.

You can listen and subscribe to The Enes Kanter Show here, or watch on YouTube.

Celtics-76ers preview: What will Philly miss most from Ben Simmons?

Celtics-76ers preview: What will Philly miss most from Ben Simmons?

As we saw throughout most of Philadelphia’s seeding games, the 76ers losing Ben Simmons (left knee surgery) for the season was a huge blow. 

It’s one of the main reasons why the Boston Celtics are overwhelming favorites over their Eastern Conference rival in the teams' first-round playoff series, which begins on Monday.

So where will Simmons' absence be felt the most?

Defense

For all the impressive things Simmons does with the basketball, the Sixers will miss him most on the defensive side.

The 6-foot-10 Simmons boasts length, size and lateral quickness that causes problems for opponents offensively because of his pick-and-roll defensive potential that’s on display most nights.

Against the Celtics, Simmons spends most of his time on the floor guarding Boston’s top scorer, Jayson Tatum. 

Don't miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-76ers, which begins Monday at 5:30 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live followed by tip-off at 6:30 p.m. You can also stream the game on the MyTeams App.

In the four games the two teams played this season, three of which were won by Philly, Simmons limited Tatum’s impact each time. 

According to NBA.com/stats, Tatum shot 31.3 percent (5-for-16) in games in which he was guarded by Simmons this season. 

So, if Tatum puts up big-time numbers in this series, no one should be surprised considering the Sixers player who has consistently done the best job at defending him won’t be on the floor.

Offensive mismatches

A point guard trapped in a big man's body, Simmons has speed and strength that creates matchup problems on the perimeter as well as on the post.

The 24-year-old averaged 16.4 points along with 7.8 rebounds and 8.0 assists this season while shooting a team-best 58 percent from the field.

Celtics Talk Podcast: The Al Horford conundrum and why Sixers won’t last long vs. Celtics | Listen & subscribe | Watch on YouTube

Simmons’ shooting range has been a topic of discussion for as long as he has been in the NBA. And while it creates a different kind of challenge for the Sixers when it comes to running their offense, the third-year pro has shown himself to be talented enough to still be a high-impact, difference-maker for Philly.

Playmaking

Soon after the Sixers arrived in the bubble, head coach Brett Brown talked about how the team was planning to play Simmons more at power forward to better utilize his versatility and create better spacing for the team’s perimeter shooters.

Like most of what the Sixers have tried to do this season, the few times we saw Simmons in that role it didn’t work. But his absence creates an even bigger hole when it comes to playmaking.

Shake Milton has moved into the starting lineup after putting together a string of impressive performances prior to the league being suspended in March.

However, his impact was greatest as a scorer, which is different from what he is being charged with now. Milton is averaging 12.5 points as a starter this season to go with 2.9 rebounds and 3.9 assists. 

No one is expecting him to put up Simmons-like numbers, but the more you watch Milton play and try to run Philly's offense, the clearer it becomes just how much Simmons’ presence is missed.