By Matthew Geagan, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — Jaylen Brown is not afraid to speak his mind, and he’s certainly not afraid to give an honest answer.
And he’s being brutally honest when it comes to his recent demotion to the Boston bench. While Brown has made the transition from starter to reserve look fairly effortless over the last week, the move has been anything but easy on the young Celtics swing man.
“It’s probably been the hardest thing I’ve had to deal with so far in my career,” Brown recently explained to ESPN’s Jackie MacMullan. “Just coming from a position where you had so much responsibility, and now that responsibility is lessened. Expectations have been raised, but your responsibility goes down, so it’s hard to reach those expectations when you aren’t being asked to do as much.
“It’s been a challenge. It’s going to continue to be a challenge,” he said. “It’s all about your mindset, so that’s what I’m focusing on.”
After struggling for the first 20 games of the regular season, and then being sidelined with a back injury, Brown was relegated to the bench by C’s head coach Brad Stevens. Brown was far from the only Celtics player to struggle during Boston’s 10-10 start to the year, but the team’s overall play suffered whenever the third-year guard was on the floor. The Celtics were the worst offensive team in the NBA when Brown was out there; they ranked 10th offensively when he wasn’t on the floor. He shot just 25.3 percent on three-pointers, which was better than only one other player in the NBA with at least 75 attempts from downtown.
Unfortunately for Brown, the team’s current six-game win streak began when he was sidelined with a back injury. When he returned from his three-game absence, Stevens had a spot waiting for him on the bench, and he’s thrived in that new role. In his three games as a reserve, Brown is averaging 21 points and five rebounds. He looks like a different player on the floor, back to being the same aggressive two-way threat that broke out during the playoffs last season.
MacMullan noted that opposing teams have described Brown as “disjointed” and “detached,” adjectives that Brown doesn’t disagree with. Brown’s teammates, led by Kyrie Irving and Marcus Smart, tried their best to snap Brown out of his early-season malaise, through Brown knows he’s the only one who truly has the keys to do so. Like most of the team, Brown put loads of pressure on himself to begin the year, trying to live up to the heaps of hype placed on both the team and himself following last year’s postseason run.
Brown may not like his recent demotion, but he is not complaining. If the move continues to help the team, he will continue to do his thing whenever Stevens calls his name.
“So here’s my reality: I’m an NBA player on the Boston Celtics, a team that has a chance to compete for the NBA championship. Nothing else really matters,” he told MacMullan. “Right now, people are throwing out all these numbers, these stats, and they are saying this, saying that. I have unwavering faith in my ability, and I believe our coaching staff does, too.
“If anyone can handle this, I can,” he continued. “I’ve been through a lot in my short life. I’ll be all right.”
The Celtics need Brown to be the player he was throughout last season’s playoffs, whether he is in the starting five or coming off the bench. As long as he’s focused on returning to form and not when he enters the game, things should continue to trend in the right direction for both the player and the team.