BOSTON – The Boston Celtics find themselves being counted out and discarded, a familiar place for a team that has spent most of this season exceeding expectations.
And as they gear up for tonight’s game against the Chicago Bulls, a team that checked out weeks ago and is all about rebuilding for next season, no one would fault Boston for taking a similar tact after losing Kyrie Irving (left knee) for the season after having already lost Gordon Hayward (dislocated left ankle) and Daniel Theis (torn meniscus, left knee) to season-ending injuries.
Irving, who was a week-and-a-half into recovering from a "minimally invasive" procedure to remove a tension wire from his left kneecap surgery in 2015, will have another surgical procedure performed on Saturday to remove two screws to address an infection in his knee.
No Irving means the Celtics are doomed to struggle and fail to get out of the first round. At least that's the popular narrative surrounding the team now.
That line of thought is nothing new for Jaylen Brown to hear about the Celtics this season. He has seen how the outward optimism viewed by many of the Celtics and their chances for success this season, quickly turned to doom-and-gloom with Hayward’s injury. And even as the wins piled up, there was still a sense of skepticism that this Celtics team, sooner or later, would fold.
Brown has heard all that . . . and loves it.
“I thrive off it, when people say this and say that and tell you what you’re gonna do, how successful you’re gonna be,” Brown told NBC Sports Boston. “I just smile and keep it moving.”
The injuries and all the second-guessing about how good the Celtics are has only fortified the chip on Brown’s shoulder that began to grow on the eve of him being drafted by Boston in 2016.
“At one point people said I was gonna go 15th in the draft,” said Brown who was selected by Boston with the third overall pick.
And he knows he’s not alone in feeling overlooked.
“People probably told Shane [Larkin] he wasn’t gonna make it to the NBA,” Brown said of Larkin, who was a first-round pick in 2013. “People probably told Terry [Rozier] he wasn’t going to be this or that . . . But we’re here. The makeup of our locker room has been the most significant thing for us to do what we’ve been doing. We got a lot of tough, resilient guys with a tough mindset.”