Celtics

Jaylen Brown is getting back to his driving roots

Adam Richins/Boston Sports Journal

It’s easy to forget, after Jaylen Brown shot nearly 40 percent from 3-point range last season, just how much of a question mark his jump shot was coming out of Cal in the summer of 2016.

The 6-foot-7 shooting guard knocked down only 29 percent of his attempts beyond the arc during his freshman season at the collegiate level, a troublesome number that led many to wonder just how well his jump shot would translate to the NBA.

Danny Ainge and his staff saw past those numbers when they drafted him at No. 3 overall. They blamed a poor Cal offense that lacked spacing as the main reason for his struggles and also saw an athlete that managed to get to the paint at will with his first step. Even if Brown’s shot didn’t pan out, the belief was there that swingman would be able to make an impact on the offensive end by attacking the rim at the next level, which helped him average nearly seven free throw attempts per game as a freshman. This ability alone enabled him to become a lottery prospect in spite of his ugly shooting numbers.

After surpassing expectations with his 3-point shot (36 percent) for his first seasons in Green, Brown is looking a lot like the guard most scouts expected him to be at the next level with his perimeter jumper looming as a question mark. His 3-point shot has betrayed him this year, with another 0-for-2 night on Thursday lowering his season average to 24.7 percent, making him one of the worst high volume shooters in the NBA.

However, those struggles were an afterthought against the Knicks when Brown scored a season-high 21 points on 7-of-10 shooting from the field as he returned from a four-game absence. He set the tone immediately in his first appearance off the Boston bench of the year, attacking the rim on his first three touches on his way to a season-high five makes at the rim and nine free-throw attempts (drawn at the rim). He shot jumpers when he was open but otherwise had his sights on the paint on nearly every possession, a mentality which helped fueled a 128-100 blowout of the Knicks.

“I thought he was really good. I thought he played with great pace and purpose and made really good decisions,” Brad Stevens said. “I didn’t think anything was forced, which sometimes, when you come off the bench, that’s one of the things you try to catch up to the game quickly.”

"Basketball is basketball, whether it’s coming off the bench or walking out of the stands,” said Brown of his new role with the second unit. "It’s all basketball. Just come out and play.”

While the common narrative after Thursday’s win will be that this is the new-and-improved Brown after some time off, it’s an inaccurate one.