Brown Feeling ‘Awesome’ as He Prepares for Opening Night

After missing the past week and a half of basketball-related activities due to a positive COVID-19 test, Celtics wing Jaylen Brown has cleared the NBA's Health and Safety Protocols and is preparing to return just in time for Wednesday night’s regular-season opener against the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden.

“Jaylen’s feeling well, doing well, practiced with us yesterday and just went through shootaround, so he (should) be ready to go tonight,” head coach Ime Udoka said Wednesday afternoon. “Probably shorter stints overall, but … He looks good, looks like he’s in great shape for being out that long.”

Brown was fortunate to only experience minor symptoms during his bout with the virus, and he was in great spirits as he rejoined the team Tuesday. The sixth-year veteran said there are still a few tests that he wants to run through leading up to the 7:30 p.m. tip-off, but he's optimistic about potentially returning.

“I feel awesome, to be honest,” he said. “I had some mild symptoms for the most part. The most concerning was my breathing. I had to really focus to get my breathing kind of back to normal. But the more I focused on it, the better I was able to gain more efficiency in it.”

Brown’s method of focus was through meditation. He meditated a couple of times per day, often for multiple hours at a time, “trying to get the restriction out of my chest and nose.”

“I think we take for granted how important breathing is," he added. "And out of all the symptoms that could hit, I think breathing is the one that scares me the most with COVID. So I wanted to make sure that my breathing wasn’t altered because if my breathing is altered, my life is altered. So that’s what I spent a lot of time focusing on.”

The timing of the diagnosis was difficult for Brown, as it came just after the first exhibition game of the preseason. He had just worked all summer rehabbing from wrist surgery and had finally returned to tip-top shape before the surprising diagnosis was revealed.

"Getting ready to go into the season, I felt amazing. And I still feel amazing,” Brown said. “But I was like, ‘Real convenient timing.’ That’s what I thought. I didn’t believe it at first. I was very skeptical, but that’s what was going through my mind. I was feeling the best I possibly have ever felt in a long time, ready to start the season, and then, boom.”

However, Brown is thankful to be back feeling as good as he does, and he’s also fortunate that his diagnosis came before the start of the regular season. Though, he did miss some valuable learning time with the new coaching staff, so Udoka and his assistants have been doing their best to get the All-Star up to speed.

"To implement Jaylen back in the lineup, we had to get him caught up on some of the new sets and terminology, schemes we put in,” Udoka said. “But he’s a vet - been there, done that.”

The team will be cautious integrating Brown back into the game, considering the respiratory difficulties he’s been experiencing. They also have an inhaler available for him if needs it, “But hopefully I won’t have to use it,” he said.

“There are concerns from both ends, just because it's a high level of intensity, New York is a physical team, et cetera. And coming in, I've only had 24 hours to prepare,” Brown noted. “But I told them, we'll see. I've been playing basketball for six years now. I know this game in and out. I know how to pick and choose my spots. So they trust me.”

With Brown being back, that leaves only Al Horford absent, awaiting his return from the NBA’s Health and Safety Protocols. Horford was diagnosed with COVID a few days after Brown so, therefore, the timeline for his return is a few days behind.

The good news is that Horford, like Brown, did not get hit hard by the virus, and should be back on the court in no time.

“No update other than he's feeling good,” Udoka said of the 15-year veteran center. “Gotta go through the timeline and the protocols, but we're hoping to have him back soon and he's feeling good, just like Jaylen was before he got back.”

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