According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, a “sidekick” is “a person closely associated with another as a subordinate or partner.” Does that sound like Jaylen Brown to you?
Coming off his first All-Star appearance, Brown fully understands the importance of his multifaceted role in Boston. As most Celtics fans already know, Brown is an ascending superstar and leader; not Jayson Tatum‘s sidekick. After Wednesday’s practice, Brown told reporters, “I think the media likes to dichotomize things and put one thing against the other like it has to be a Batman and a Robin… We’re just two guys that can hoop.”
Deadly, Dynamic Duo
Brown and Tatum are one of the league’s most dynamic duos, bar none. They are ready to lead Boston’s resurgence. Along with Marcus Smart and new head coach Ime Udoka, the young Celtics core is looking to re-establish themselves as one of the Eastern Conference’s best squads.
Perhaps even more impressive, the Jays are quickly becoming one of the most dominant duos in the storied history of the franchise.
They have a long way to go before catching up to Hall of Famers like Bill Russell and Bob Cousy, Larry Bird and Kevin McHale, or Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, but the Celtics young stars are well on their way to greatness.
Despite being just 24 and 23-years old, Brown and Tatum combined for 51.1 points per game last season. Both produced career-highs in points and assists, while Brown also improved his offensive efficiency with career-best shooting splits (48.4%, 39.7%, 76.4%).
Tatum is also coming off the best season of his young career and his second All-Star appearance. On Wednesday, Brown spoke about his strong relationship with Tatum and said they frequently discuss how “the media wants to kind of sometimes write the story that pulls us apart.
“I respect Jayson. I think he’s one of the best players in this game regardless of 25-and-under or -over. And I think he can be one of the best players when it’s all said and done. I think the same about myself.”
An Extension of Udoka
As one of the NBA’s elite, Brown does not see himself in any sort of sidekick role. And neither does Udoka, who previously coached Brown, Tatum, and Smart for Team USA in 2019.
Last month, Udoka told reporters, “We got two elite scorers – I want to help them be playmakers.”
Brown’s handles and playmaking have improved in each of his first five seasons with the Celtics. Videos from his recent workouts with other NBA stars indicate that his offensive game could take another huge leap forward this season – especially in Udoka’s system.
Udoka has repeatedly stressed the importance of increased ball movement and embracing a defense-first mentality. These key characteristics have long been associated with Celtics basketball, although not as prominently during the past few seasons.
According to Brown, Udoka “has my full attention, my full respect. I’m completely bought in, I’m looking forward to trying to be an extension of him on the court and trying to win these games and trying to have our experience in the start to his first year as head coach of the Celtics be a good one.
“I think that’s the goal. We’re looking forward to utilizing each other, to get the best out of this team and this organization.”
Furthermore, Udoka revealed on Saturday that the team will name two captains this season. Their last captain was Rajon Rondo in 2014.
Smart, the longest-tenured Celtic and defensive leader, should be one of them. It wouldn’t be surprising if Brown, a current Vice President of the National Basketball Players Association, was named captain alongside him.
Signed until at least 2024, Brown also just opened up his “7uice” brand storefront location in Boston’s seaport. He clearly wants to stick around for a while and the city is lucky to have him.
Leading on and off the Court
Brown proudly advocated for Udoka’s hiring during the Celtics’ coaching search. He has also been unapologetically outspoken about the importance of having more Black head coaches in the NBA.
As one of the league’s most prolific voices in regards to social justice, education reform, and fighting against oppressive and systemic racism in America, Brown’s leadership extends far beyond the basketball court.
Furthermore, as someone deeply inspired by Russell’s role and courage during the civil rights movement of the 1960s, Brown emulates Russell’s greatness not just by winning basketball games, but by relentlessly working to make the world a better place.
After missing the playoffs last season due to a wrist injury, and dealing with nagging knee injuries and fatigue due to last year’s COVID-shortened offseason, Brown finally feels healthy, explosive, and ready to lead this exciting Celtics team.
Look for him and Tatum to quash conversations about heroes and sidekicks this season. Both will likely flourish as two-way All-Star playmakers in Udoka’s offense.
Udoka’s first season in Boston will see plenty of ups and downs. Players will gradually acclimate to the new system while finding their collective identity. Brown and Tatum will once again lead the Celtics to the postseason while earning recognition as one of the league’s most versatile duos.
The new-look Celtics should contend in the East for the foreseeable future, perhaps even as early as this season. And when they eventually bring Banner 18 home to Boston, only jokers will still be calling Brown a “Robin.”
Photo: (Maddie Meyer/Getty)
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