Why Rising Stars Game Could Fuel Brown's Second Half

BOSTON – For most young athletes, seeing is believing. Jaylen Brown is no exception.

All-Star weekend provided Brown a forum to see with his own eyes that he has the potential to soar above the rest of the top young players in the NBA. It was a reminder to the second-year wing that his confidence level from earlier this season was fully justified.

Brown put in more work this past summer than he ever had on the basketball court, because doing so had become his job. This past summer, he didn’t need to prepare for the Draft, or to fly around the country for workouts, or to assimilate himself to a new city.

Instead, this past summer was all about hard work and development, and it paid off.

Brown gained 10-15 pounds of bulk during the offseason, yet when he reported to training camp in September, he still managed to be “moving faster than I ever have before,” as he told Celtics.com.

His skills were refined. His shot was sharpened. He was primed for a breakout season, and he knew it.

The first two-plus months of the season were a reminder of the work he had put in during his first professional offseason. He put the ball through the basket at nearly a 48-percent clip through December, including a 40.8-percent rate from long range. Midway through that stretch, in mid-November, his confidence was at an all-time high.

“I can play with the best in the world,” Brown proclaimed Nov. 18, after scoring 27 points to lead Boston to its 15th consecutive win.

There was no faulting him at the time for his indelible confidence. He was playing at an All-Star level as a member of what was at the time the best team in the NBA. He was seeing the fruits of his labor, and believing was a simple task.

The same cannot be said for Brown after the turn of the calendar. The first six weeks of 2018 were not kind to the former No. 3 overall pick, as his shooting numbers plummeted while the Celtics tumbled back down to Earth.

Over 19 games during the first six weeks of 2018, Brown shot just 42.1 percent from the field and 32.6 percent from long range. His Celtics, meanwhile, lost nine of 15 games heading into the All-Star break – a break they desperately needed.

“I think the break came just at the right time for our group,” said veteran big man Al Horford.

All-Star weekend allowed most of Boston’s team to get away from the minutiae of the season and to recharge their batteries. For Brown, however, the weekend was a chance to relocate that confidence he displayed during the opening months of the season.

One year after being bypassed during the selection process for the Rising Stars Challenge, the NBA’s showcase of its top first- and second-year players at All-Star weekend, Brown, along with teammate Jayson Tatum, received the invite this year. They both played for Team USA.

And Brown proved that he should have been there last year, too.

No player was more impressive during the game than Boston’s young and talented wing. He led the game with 35 points – 15 more than any of his teammates and six more than the game’s second-highest total – and made 14 of his 21 shot attempts. Yes, seven of those makes were dunks, but he also made some eyebrow-raising shots, including step-back 3s and transition pull-up 3s, and crossover pull-up jumpers.

As icing on the cake, Brown led his team with 10 rebounds, marking the second-highest total in the game behind only Domantas Sabonis’ 11 for Team World.

Brown’s confidence beamed as the game clock wound down, as he threw down two between-the-legs dunks during the final two minutes. Soon thereafter, he waltzed to the postgame podium as the last of four players to speak. He answered nine total questions, the last of which was a signal of the significance of his performance.

“My growth from last year to this year was significant,” he stated with his always-calm demeanor. “And my growth from this year to next year is going to be even better.”

That’s the type budding bravado that Brown showcased at the start of the season, the type that moved to the back-burner after the onset of the New Year.

Brown’s performance during the Rising Stars Challenge at All-Star weekend was significant. It was a clear display that he is one of the most talented young players the NBA has to offer, and that the work he put in during the offseason has paid off.

Brown is humble, but he is not blind. He saw what he did in front of a worldwide audience. It’s hard not to believe after that.

Now all that’s left is for his belief to resurface in his play during Boston’s run toward the postseason.