No one on the Celtics is playing better basketball right now than Jaylen Brown.
Even through a difficult post All-Star stretch for the team as a whole, Brown’s performance has been above reproach. Since the break the All-Star wing is averaging 27.6 points per game on 50/40 splits. Assists are up, turnovers down and he has been noticeably more dialed in on defense. He has set the tempo for the Celtics and provided energy for a team sorely lacking it.
To reach their lofty goals of winning an NBA title the Celtics need Brown now more than ever, even if Brown himself hasn’t always felt needed.
In recent interviews with the New York Times and the Ringer Brown expressed confusion and uncertainty over just how much the Celtics considered him an essential piece of their future. His name, which has come up often in trade rumors, was dangled this offseason and again at the trade deadline when Kevin Durant came available.
The rumor necessitated a 3-way call between Brown, Celtics President of Basketball Operations Brad Stevens and fellow star Jayson Tatum, a friend of Durant’s and offseason workout partner. Tatum addressed that call after Friday’s 120-95 win over the Pacers.
“Just reassuring that it’s obvious we need him, and he’s a big part of this team, this franchise, and without him, we can’t reach our goals,” Tatum said. “So you guys know that, the world knows that, the team knows that. So we need him to be the best version of ourselves.”
Brown is a free agent after next season. His future ,while not certain has never been more in doubt in the wake of those two recent interviews.
In response to being yo-yoed on and off the trade block his entire career, Brown expressed a level of distrust of the Celtics organization and NBA teams as a whole. He discussed his relationship with Boston as a city and it’s troubled racial past and slow to change present. He labeled a portion of the Celtics fan base, toxic. Brown also made it be known that wherever his next playing destination is, it will be one where he feels “needed and treated correct.”
“I’m the type of person that likes to let people know how I’m feeling about certain things and situations,” Brown said after Friday’s game. “Sometimes when I don’t speak, people speak for you. Sometimes things can get taken out of context and lost in translation when those things happen. But I pick and choose my spots.”
But why this spot? Why now?
With the Celtics scuffling, the playoffs looming and an entire year to go until he hits free agency what made this the most opportune time for Brown to open up and muddy the waters about his Celtics future?
While there is always a tug of war between the blissfully sunny faction of Celtics fans who give players the benefit of every doubt, and the sky is falling doomers who overreact to every minor bump in the road, most operate in a more nuanced gray area. And when those people shake that Magic 8-ball looking for clarity on Brown’s future in Boston…
“Cannot predict now.”
So is he leaving? Shake, shake shake.
“Reply hazy, try again.”
Well is he definitely coming back? Shake, shake shake.
“Better not tell you now.”
“Sometimes it don’t matter what you’re gonna say,’ Brown added. “People are gonna take it from the perspective they want to take it from. That’s the world we live in. People feed off of controversy and controversy sells. So if I have an opportunity to make something sound more appealing than it actually is, usually nine times out of 10 they’re gonna take it. That’s the life that we live.”
Sorry, but that explanation is analogous to Tim Robinson’s “I think You Should Leave” hot dog car sketch. Brown is the guy in the hot dog suit telling everyone, “We’re all trying to find the guy who did this.”
Brown is right however, controversy does sell, but he is the one who put it on the menu. For such an intelligent, thoughtful person Brown had to know the impact his comments would have. The Celtics mean a great deal to a lot of people and Brown is almost universally beloved and revered. Any suggestion that he could end up elsewhere in a year might be easily dismissed by some but induce outright panic in others.
Brown is not the first public figure to speak something into existence and then cry ‘Fake News!’ when he didn’t like how it landed. If Brown felt he was in any way misrepresented in the articles themselves he should say so. But to this point he has no intention of providing any context or clarity himself, rather allowing the speculation he spoke out against to grow and fester.
“I clarify myself when I need to and then sometimes you just sweep stuff under the rug and keep going,” Brown said.
So, Brown chose to give the interviews so he could speak his mind, bemoaned people taking his words out of context, and is now choosing not to clarify exactly what he meant.
Sorry, but that’s called ‘wanting it both ways.’
In the end, it’s possible none of this matters. Regardless how warm and fuzzy Brown feels about the Celtics organization and his time in Boston, there are other factors that could influence his future.
Winning a championship for one, and the likelihood of doing it more than once with the existing Celtics core.
Brown could also become supermax eligible if he makes All-NBA this season, something that seems increasingly likely if he keeps up his current level of play. The money associated with a supermax deal dwarfs what he would receive if he explores free agency and that alone may speak loudly enough to drown out any existing hangups with Boston.
But while Brown won’t reassure fans that he’ll be here forever, he does promise to show everyone that despite his often sullen demeanor, he is quite happy these days.
“Absolutely, yeah, I mean, one, winter is over, spring is here. And it’s the beginning of Ramadan, so definitely being in better spirits,” he said. “Trying to be, I guess, smiling a little bit, just to come out and just share your enthusiasm and your love for the game.
“Probably don’t smile enough, but it’s a lot of work that we’ve got in front of us. And ain’t nothing funny.”
So smile Celtics fans. Jaylen Brown is happy, the Celtics are playing well and for now the quest for Banner 18 is back on.
What happens after that? Shake, shake, shake.
“Ask again later.”