Celtics

The key to Brown's growth with Celtics? He points to Stevens

The key to Brown's growth with Celtics? He points to Stevens

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.

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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.”

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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.

“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.”

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NBA odds: Celtics' title chances rise as East playoff picture gets clearer

NBA odds: Celtics' title chances rise as East playoff picture gets clearer

The Boston Celtics needed a few days to find their bearings in the NBA bubble. But now that they're on the right track, they could be staying Orlando for a while.

The Celtics locked themselves into the Eastern Conference's No. 3 seed Sunday with a 122-119 overtime win over the Orlando Magic. The victory was their third in a row after routing the Brooklyn Nets and stomping the defending champion Toronto Raptors.

One of the Celtics' major rivals, meanwhile, is heading in the other direction. The Philadelphia 76ers just lost All-Star guard Ben Simmons to a knee injury that could sideline him the entire postseason and fell to the No. 6 seed in the East with Sunday's loss to the Portland Trail Blazers.

Don't miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-Grizzlies, which begins Tuesday at 4 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live followed by tip-off at 5 p.m. You can also stream the game on the MyTeams App.

Both the Celtics and Sixers have three seeding games remaining, but as it stands now, they'd face each other in the first round of the NBA playoffs, a matchup that Boston actually might welcome with Simmons sidelined.

In short, things are looking up the C's -- and the sportsbooks have taken notice. Here are DraftKings Sportsbook's latest 2020 NBA championship odds as of Monday morning:

1. Milwaukee Bucks: +250
2. Los Angeles Lakers: +260
3. Los Angeles Clippers: +310
4. Toronto Raptors: +1000
5. Houston Rockets: +1300
6. Boston Celtics: +1600
7. Denver Nuggets: +2500
8. Miami Heat: +2500
9. Dallas Mavericks: +4000
10. Utah Jazz: +4000
All other teams have odds worse than +4000

The Celtics entered the bubble with +2000 odds to win the title but now sit at +1600, closely behind the Raptors and Rockets.

As for the Sixers? They also had +2000 odds prior to the seeding round but have plummeted outside the top 10 to +5000 after Simmons' injury.

The Bucks, Lakers and Clippers have long been the three most serious title contenders. The Celtics have held steady as a dark horse, though, and recent developments have strengthened their championship case: Kemba Walker has looked great while ramping up from a knee injury, while Jayson Tatum has shaken off some early rust to return to All-Star form.

Boston can take its foot off the gas during its final three seeding games with the No. 3 seed wrapped up. But once the postseason begins, it's full speed ahead toward Banner 18.

Celtics' Jayson Tatum shouts out Carmelo Anthony for hitting NBA milestone

Celtics' Jayson Tatum shouts out Carmelo Anthony for hitting NBA milestone

Jayson Tatum was five years old when Carmelo Anthony entered the NBA, so he literally grew up watching the All-Star forward.

Tatum always has admired Anthony's game, so after 'Melo made NBA history in the Portland Trail Blazers' 124-121 win over the Philadelphia 76ers on Sunday, the Boston Celtics forward had to show him love.

Here's Tatum's Twitter shout-out of Anthony after the 36-year-old moved to 15th on the NBA's all-time scoring list:

Anthony ironically passed Celtics legend Paul Pierce, who racked up 24,021 of his 26,397 career points in Boston.

Don't miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-Grizzlies, which begins Tuesday at 4 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live followed by tip-off at 5 p.m. You can also stream the game on the MyTeams App.

Tatum called Anthony one of his "top three favorite players" after the Celtics and Blazers met earlier this season, so it's no wonder he was so excited to see the 36-year-old make history (even if it was at Pierce's expense).

Anthony respects Tatum's game, too: He admitted earlier this season he "loves" watching Tatum play and said the 22-year-old is "like a little brother to me."

Tatum might eye Pierce and Anthony on the all-time scoring list one day if he continues to play at a high level.