Seems like long ago. Jaylen Brown was a rookie in October 2016, the No. 3 pick out of California, when the Celtics were scheduled to suit up against the Knicks on the road. It was a preseason game, but Brown got a bit of an unexpected shock—Brad Stevens tapped him before the game to tell him he’d be starting.
Oh, and his assignment for the night: Carmelo Anthony.
Brown would score 12 points in 25 minutes on the night but on an ESPN stream on Monday he noted that things got off to a rocky start when it came to guarding Anthony.
Here’s how Brown recounted the experience:
“We’re playing the Knicks and Carmelo, that was my matchup. They just kind of threw me out there and that was my matchup. That was my surreal moment like, in Madison Square Garden for the first time, guarding Carmelo Anthony, one of the best forwards this game has ever seen, in New York. It was crazy. After I kind of got that moment out, Carmelo was definitely my introduction to the league.
“I am standing in front of him, I am squared up in front of him. The crowd is like, ‘Kill him, kill the rook!’ Everybody’s standing up. And I am like, ‘Hell, no.’ I just fouled him. He came back down again and I just fouled him again. He’s not going to do that stuff on me, no sir.”
Brown has Blossomed in Boston
Brown, of course, has come a long way since his rookie year. The Celtics used him sparingly that season. He appeared in 78 games and started 20 of them but he played only 17.2 minutes per night, averaging 6.6 points on 45.4 percent shooting and 34.1 percent 3-point shooting. Those are all career lows.
This year, Brown was a near-miss for the All-Star team, averaging 20.4 points, 6.4 rebounds and 2.2 assists. When the season came to a halt in March, Brown was shooting 49.0 percent from the field and 38.1 percent from the 3-point line.
He also recounted one of the more memorable plays of his career, from his second year. Brown landed a swooping dunk from the corner off a missed shot in San Antonio on national TV.
Oddly enough, Brown said, that play came more from listening to general manager Danny Ainge than from listening to Stevens, his coach. The two have different philosophies when it comes to crashing the offensive glass vs. hustling back on defense once a hot goes up.
“Danny Ainge is a big supporter of corner crashes,” Brown said. “He’s been telling me I need to do that more since my rookie year in the league. I’m going to try to implement it more, he’s big on corner crashes. Brad is big on getting guys back in transition. But Danny is like, no, you’ve got to do the corner crash. I am trying to listen to them both at the same time.”
For Jaylen Brown, Celtics, Future is Now
Brown, like players all around the league, is antsy to have the restart, though there is significant doubt that will be able to happen. The Celtics were the No. 3 seed in the East, at 43-21, when the season was stopped after Rudy Gobert tested positive for coronavirus.
With fellow star forward Jayson Tatum, Brown is part of one of the NBA’s most exciting young tandems. Brown is 23 and Tatum is 22.
Observers frequently project out how good the pairing may be in five years or so. Brown said he and Tatum don’t think that way.
“Not at all,” Brown said. “We’re so worried about now we don’t have time to think about the next five years. Everything that they say we can get in five years we can do it now. We don’t understand people that think we have to be patient.”