Poised & Prepared: No Challenge too Daunting for Jaylen Brown
WALTHAM, Mass. – Jaylen Brown built up so much confidence during the regular season, by the time the Playoffs rolled around it was oozing out of every pore on his body.
Using that confidence, the 21-year-old wing has determinedly taken on the roles of both a go-to scorer and a lockdown defender for his underdog Boston Celtics team during its postseason run, and he has succeeded magnificently so far.
Brown has boosted his stats across the board during the Playoffs, averaging 17.8 points per game on 49.5 percent shooting from the field and 42.3 percent from 3-point range. He has embraced the task of matching up against any opposing star, even when being hampered by a hamstring strain. And, he has pushed the Celtics to 10 playoff wins and a commanding 2-0 lead over the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference Finals.
Through it all, not once has he been fazed.
“I really feel like there’s nothing I can’t do on the floor,” Brown said Thrusday afternoon following Celtics practice. “It’s just a matter of doing it.”
But how does one develop such confidence at such a young age?
“Jaylen is fearless,” explained C’s coach Brad Stevens. “Jaylen is tough. Jaylen continually gets better. He wants to get better. And I think sometimes because of his athleticism and his youth, he's got an unbelievable ability to get in there and make plays that other people can't make. But then I think sometimes we don't talk enough about how competitive he is. He's another tough, competitive guy.”
There has been no better display of Brown’s toughness than his ongoing battle against Cavaliers superstar LeBron James in the Conference Finals.
Brown opened up the series by outscoring James 23-15 during Game 1 to lead Boston to a 108-83 blowout win at TD Garden.
James bounced back with a vengeance during Game 2, scoring 21 points during the first quarter alone, but Brown didn’t back down. Instead, he responded with 14 first-quarter points of his own to help keep the C’s at bay, before leading them to a 107-94 win.
“I was just trying to match his punches,” said Brown, who has averaged 13.5 points per first quarter so far during the series. “Sometimes you can get discouraged when you see that level of greatness, but as long as you keep fighting, keep throwing punches, in the end we stood on top.”
Many of the punches that Brown throws are mental jabs. He gets inside the head of his opponent, and that messes with their rhythm just as much as his physical play does.
Teammate Marcus Smart is a first-hand witness to much of Brown’s trash talk and says that it seems to have a profound impact on the recipients.
“It’s just things just from [saying], ‘You can't guard me,’ to the flexes, the poses, to calling people ‘little one’ when he posts them up and things like that. When a guy is doing that and he backs it up, it kind of gets into your head like, ‘You know what, I don't really know if I can guard this guy.’
“That’s a mental thing, a part of the game that a lot of good players understand," continued Smart. "The mental game is just as much important as the physical.”
The combination of Brown’s strong play with the ball and smart play with the mind all stems from the poise that continues to rapidly develop within him.
“The more experience you go through and the more time you spend on the floor, the more situations that you see, the more confident I’ve gotten,” said Brown. “And I’m a pretty confident guy, but I feel like during this postseason my confidence has just reached a new ceiling, and it’s just going up and up as we speak.”
If that’s the case, there may be no ceiling on Brown’s confidence. And that’s scary to think about considering how poised he already is at just 21 years of age.