BOSTON (CBS) — The Celtics need some kind of spark after going 1-4 on their recent road trip. Head coach Ime Udoka is hoping that the return of Jaylen Brown will provide that extra bounce to the team.
Brown is set to return Monday night after missing the last five games with a hamstring strain. The injury cost him more games earlier this season, and Brown admitted that he returned too early the first time around. So this time, both sides decided to keep Brown on the sideline until he was 100 percent.READ MORE: A Loophole In NFL's Penalty For Hitting Defenseless Receiver Was Exposed On Eric Weddle-Mike Evans Hit
All parties involved are confident that Brown is back for good now following his extended break. And he’s returning at a good time, with the defending champion Milwaukee Bucks paying a visit to TD Garden on Monday night.
“It was probably smart. It definitely is smart for the long run,” Brown said of his extended layoff. “I’ve had this same injury three times now over the course of my career and each time it has gotten a little worse. So trying to take the time to find out what’s causing the issue so it’s not reoccurring, so I can just move past it and look forward to the season.”
He learned a lesson the first time, returning too soon and lacking his usual explosiveness for five games before being shut down again.
“I wanted to come back just because I admire the fight, at times, the fight of this team defensively; how we’ve been all season prior to these last four or five games,” Brown said Sunday. “We’ve hung our hat on defense and I wanted to be out there to fight with my teammates, but the medical staff suggested that we make sure that first off, you protect yourself. I think I came back maybe a little too early before because I was not myself, and hamstrings are a little bit tricky.
“So we were just taking time to figure it out. The organization and the medical staff had good communication and we figured it out,” he said.READ MORE: Bengals Have Rookie Kicker Evan McPherson Thanks In Large Part To Patriots' Draft Day Trade
Based on what they’ve seen on the practice floor, the Celtics feel good about Brown being himself this time around. Udoka isn’t expecting Brown to come back and “save the world,” but he’s happy that such a big piece of the puzzle is returning.
“He’s good. You can see that the burst is back,” Udoka said of his swingman. “He’s stepped it up throughout the week. Especially on that trip, he ramped it up and he feels good after workouts. That’s the main thing: How his body recovers and not having soreness or any tightness, as he did when he came back for the games.”
Boston is hoping that their 13-14 record will vastly improve with Brown — who has missed 14 of Boston’s 27 games this season — returning to the mix. Udoka has been tempted to shake things up after the team fell apart defensively and struggled to score on their woeful road trip, but first, he wants to see what the team looks like when Brown gets back to doing his thing.
“We don’t want to overreact to what we haven’t had and make changes just to make changes,” said Udoka. “We’ll see where we are when we’re back to full strength.”
Brown has averaged 21.4 points off 46.3 percent shooting in his 13 games this season. He last played on Dec. 1, and scored just nine points off 3-for-11 shooting in a Boston win over the Philadelphia 76ers.MORE NEWS: Rob Gronkowski Needs A Few Weeks To Decide On His Future, But Hints He May Still Play Even If Tom Brady Retires
Monday night is the second meeting between the Celtics and the Bucks this season. The Celtics were victorious in the first matchup, earning a 122-113 overtime win on Nov. 12 in Boston thanks to 38 points by Dennis Schroder. Brown did not play in that game, and neither did Bucks superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo, so Monday night’s tilt in Boston figures to be a little different.