WALTHAM, Mass. – Brad Stevens may seem pretty mild-mannered on the sidelines, but his players tell a different story.
Stevens is a likable guy, but don’t think for a minute that he’ll hesitate to get on a player who isn’t doing something as well as he believes they should.
And nobody sees that side of Stevens more than Celtics second-year wing Jaylen Brown.
Stevens is more consumed by telling players what they need to know and not necessarily what they want to hear.
Brown said Stevens has never told him that he would be harder on him than some others, but what they have is an unspoken understanding on the matter built upon respect and improvement – both in Brown’s game and the Celtics’ win total.
“It is what it is,” Brown said prior to practice Saturday ahead of Boston's playoff opener Sunday afternoon at home against the Milwaukee Bucks. “I have a job to do; Brad has a job to do. We understand that. He’s trying to win games, I’m trying to win games. At the end of the day, that’s what a leader does. They lead to a common goal. Brad Stevens is our coach, our leader. In Brad we trust.”
The relationship between Stevens and his healthiest leading scorer (14.5 points per game) is cemented in large part on Brown’s willingness to be coached, which sets him apart from a lot of the top prospects who come into the NBA having done things their way and haven't necessarily been coached to embrace the teachings of others.
“We use the phrase, growth-oriented,” Stevens said. “Nobody is more focused on getting better in the process in growth, than Jaylen. Jaylen is easy to coach because he wants to be coached. He wants to be good. And he’s really important to us. I really appreciate his mindset in that regard.”
Brown is quick to add that he came to the NBA with that mindset and approach to individual progress.
“It’s more of a mindset thing,” Brown said. “The NBA doesn’t have time to babysit nobody. Especially a 20, 19-year old kid, coming in on a playoff team. I didn’t want to give anybody any room to say he’s not ready, or ‘Okay, he has to mature. It was my mindset from the get-go. Everything is a growth experience for me. They may not see it now, but they’ll see it soon.”
Brown was the team’s No. 2 scorer behind Kyrie Irving, who will be out for the rest of the season after having knee surgery.
The 6-foot-7 wing shot 46.5 percent from the field and just under 40 percent (39.5 percent to be exact) from 3-point range.
And with Irving out, Brown will be among those called upon to contribute more than they did during the regular season.
Sure it’s a change, but it’s something Brown knew would come his way sooner or later.
“That’s what the NBA is about. That’s what life is about; being able to adapt,” Brown said. “That was key for a lot of young guys coming into the league, not knowing what they’re getting themselves into. Being able to adapt. I’ve adapted well. [Celtics rookie] Jayson Tatum has adapted really well.”
And that ability to make the necessary changes on the fly has been aided in part by the tough love relationship that has developed between Stevens and Brown.
When asked what do him and Stevens usually talk about, Brown said, “pretty much just doing better. Every time I talk to Brad, it’s always, ‘what I can be doing better.’”
And you won’t find Brown complaining; just the opposite, actually.
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“That’s fine; that’s what I want,” Brown said. “I just want to get better. I just want to help the team. That’s his job to bring the most out of each and everybody. so when you understand that it doesn’t really matter what he says because we have the same goals. I want to win and be the best that I can be. That’s what he wants to do too. So no matter what, we’re on the same page.”