When the Celtics came within one game of the NBA Finals in 2018, Jaylen Brown was a major player in their postseason run, averaging 18 points per game in the playoffs.
Flash forward to last season, when injuries and chemistry problems derailed the C's quest to live up to their lofty preseason expectations. Brown went from being a starter to a reserve, starting just 25 games and seeing all of his stats dip along the way.
Yet despite the well-documented obstacles along the way, Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge was impressed with what he saw from the third-year swingman.
"He might have handled a difficult situation better than anybody on our team last year," Ainge said during a recent taping of The Michael Holley Podcast alongside Celtics managing partners Wyc Grousbeck and Steve Pagliuca. "Very mature kid, wants to be great, knows that his time is coming."
"It's hard for him to be patient, but he has been patient. And he continues to work," Ainge continued. "He's trying to find ways to get better, and I think Jaylen's going to be a very good player and has a very bright future."
Right now, that future includes a stint alongside teammates Kemba Walker, Jayson Tatum and Marcus Smart on the U.S. National Team. Yet Ainge said it was the Celtics' past that Brown had some trouble wrapping his head around.
"He came and sat behind me, and he said, 'Do you think we're as good as the 1986 Celtics team?' " Ainge told host Michael Holley. "And I went, 'Oh my gosh. He's so young.' "
Brown wasn't even born until 10 years after the '86 Celtics steamrolled to a championship after a 67-win season. And to Ainge, Brown's comparison was a sign of naivete.
"I mean, I just don't think they could even grasp that 1985 loss to the Lakers and the torture of that series and what that led (to), and Larry Bird was in his prime, one of the greatest Celtics of all time," Ainge said. "But it was just fascinating. (Brown) was looking at it like matchup to matchup to matchup, like you're doing a video game. That was a real awakening to me -- just the perspective of guys."
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