Celtics

Jaylen Brown's relentless drive to prove himself with Celtics, Team USA

Jaylen Brown's relentless drive to prove himself with Celtics, Team USA

Team USA owned an absurd 58-point lead when Jaylen Brown caught a pass in transition near the midcourt stripe following a Japan turnover in the fourth quarter of Thursday’s group play at the FIBA championships. It would have been understandable if he immediately downshifted and took the ball into the corner to burn off some clock.

But that’s not how Brown operates.

Despite the three black jerseys in his vicinity, including one trying to deter his path to the basket, Brown took two hard dribbles then exploded off the right blocks. A Japan defender leaped with him but, quickly accepting his fate, simply ducked his head to avoid fouling while Brown delivered an emphatic one-handed dunk. Brown's American teammates sprang off the bench and flexed in celebration.

It would be a bit of fool’s gold to make too much of Brown’s loud performance against a clearly overmatched Japan. He scored a team-high 20 points on 9-of-15 shooting to go along with seven rebounds and a couple steals over 22 minutes, 36 seconds of floor time.

Brown’s biggest highlight might have been unleashing a windmill dunk after streaking in alone following a steal in the first half and he earned a shiny sponsored baton after being named the Player of the Game.

But when asked for his view on Thursday’s lopsided win, Brown didn’t linger on his accomplishments.

"I think we have a lot of room for improvement,” said Brown. 

That poster-dunk sequence and Brown’s postgame comments essentially confirm what we’ve long known about Brown: He’s never quite satisfied and always yearns for more. That attitude, that drive, that unrelenting style of play should excite Celtics fans far more than any dunk or point total. Brown so clearly yearns to show the rest of the NBA world what he can accomplish and won’t allow himself to throttle down in that quest.

An NBA photographer got a snapshot of Brown running onto the court with the message, “Time to show the world you’ve got game,” plastered in block letters on the tunnel wall. Brown later posted it to his Instagram account. With two Celtics teammates sidelined by injury (Jayson Tatum, Marcus Smart), Brown did just that.

Brown had a couple quiet games to start group play, though he played with a noticeable defensive intensity in Team USA’s tournament-opening win over the Czech Republic. Against Japan, he beefed up his stat line a bit. The bigger question is whether he can use the momentum gained Thursday to propel him as Team USA enters second-round play.

Greece awaits Saturday and a chance to joust yet again with NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo, the man who helped end Boston’s season last year. Brown isn’t likely to be any more deterred from attacking the basket with the Greek Freak in the paint. A snapshot of Brown dunking over Antetokounmpo went viral during the playoffs last season and, even as Brown braced for a response, he caught Antetokounmpo with another dunk soon after.

Japan was a glorified exhibition with Team USA’s spot in Round 2 secured. The competition level wasn’t close to what they’d previously seen versus Czech Republic and Turkey. But the games from here on out will challenge them and, especially with Tatum sidelined, there’s an opportunity for Brown to assert himself.

Brown’s situation has been well-chronicled this summer. He’s extension eligible before opening night and, with many of the top 2020 free agents having already inked extensions, Brown could be one of the glitzier names available next summer. He’s positioned himself for a big payday and the Celtics must determine if they want to make him a bountiful offer or wait for Brown to prove he’s capable of playing to that price tag this season. 

Brown will be a restricted free agent next summer, giving the Celtics the ability to match any offer he receives.

For now, Brown is eager to remind the rest of the NBA that last season wasn’t a true glimpse at his potential. The message on the wall inside the arena clearly resonates with him and he’s not about to downshift — regardless of the situation.

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Celtics Talk Podcast: How will ex-Celtics' big man Al Horford be received in return to Boston with 76ers?

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Celtics Talk Podcast: How will ex-Celtics' big man Al Horford be received in return to Boston with 76ers?

Al Horford makes his return to TD Garden Thursday night in a 76ers uniform. Just how will the former Celtics big man be received now that's he joined one of Boston's key rivals in the East?

That's just one of the many storylines ahead of Philly's first game in Boston and the first meeting for the teams since the Sixers easily defeated the Celtics back on opening night in late October. 

Kyle Draper and Chris Forsberg talk about it in the latest episode of the Celtics Talk Podcast. 

"It should be all love," said Draper, "but let's keep it real, the way Horford went about it, some people aren't happy about it. It sounds like him and the Sixers had some kind agreement before you're allowed to actually talk. I get the sense that they [the Celtics] were caught off guard a little bit."

LISTEN AND SUBSCRIBE HERE:

Earlier in the podcast, Forsberg is joined by Sixers reporter Serena Winters from NBC Sports Philly to talk about all things 76ers, including Ben Simmons, Horford's veteran influence on the team and where Boston and Philadelphia are now as compared to the opener. 

Don't miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-Pacers, which tips off Wednesday at 6 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live, and then Mike & Scal have the call at 7 p.m. You can also stream the game on the MyTeams App.

Celtics' Romeo Langford returns to Indiana for first time as NBA player

Celtics' Romeo Langford returns to Indiana for first time as NBA player

INDIANAPOLIS — Injuries and opportunity have kept Romeo Langford on the sidelines more than he would have liked in this, his rookie season. 

But that won’t stop the folks from his hometown of New Albany, Indiana, from making the two-hour trek to Wednesday night’s game to support him and the Boston Celtics in what’s being billed as New Albany Night at Banker’s Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.

Wednesday will be the first time Langford, selected by Boston with the 14th overall pick in last June’s draft, will return to the Hoosier State as a Celtic.

“It’ll be good, just to be back. I haven’t been back home in a while,” Langford told NBC Sports Boston, adding that the last time he was home was sometime in August. “It’s been a while. That first time going back, it’s going to be a good, special time. It’ll be nice for people who saw me grow up, to see me now in an NBA uniform.”

Langford was a four-year starter at New Albany High School and finished his prep career as one of the state’s most decorated basketball players ever. 

He took his talents to nearby Indiana University, where he played for one season before entering last June’s NBA draft.

There are many in the New Albany community eager to see one of their own come back.  

“We are excited to partner with the Pacers to provide our fans and community with an opportunity to celebrate Romeo’s return to Indiana,” New Albany Athletic Director B.J. McAlister said in a statement. “Our city’s support of Romeo over his high school and college careers was outstanding, and now everyone will get a chance to cheer him on in his first NBA game in our state.

Langford is with the Celtics but won’t see any action against the Pacers as he recovers from a sprained ankle.

“It is frustrating, but you just have to deal with it, try to get better and get back out there as soon as you can,” said Langford, referring to the series of injuries he has had thus far. “That’s all I really can do.”

Langford said he is feeling a lot better and thinks it’s just a matter of days before he’s officially cleared to resume full basketball activities.

Whether he plays or not, there’s very little that can damper Langford’s spirits on the eve of his first homecoming as an NBA player. 

“Like I said, it’ll be good to see a lot of people who helped me get to where I am now, at the game,” Langford said. “I’m looking forward to it.”

Don't miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-Pacers, which tips off Wednesday at 6 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live, and then Mike & Scal have the call at 7 p.m. You can also stream the game on the MyTeams App.