Jaylen Brown did not score 20 points in the first 19 games of this season. He’s hit that threshold six times over the last 20 contests, including his team-high 22 points in Wednesday’s 135-108 blowout win over the Indiana Pacers.
In a contest overflowing with bright spots, it’s worth starting with the third-year guard who led the team off the bench with the big scoring burst. It’s been a rollercoaster ride of a season for Brown, who gave Celtics fans the most reason to panic about from an individual perspective in the midst of an underwhelming start to the season. While Jayson Tatum frustrated teammates with shot selection early, he was still producing enough on a nightly basis to keep the group satisfied. There was maybe a step sideways in terms of his basketball progress, but no step backward from a development standpoint. Gordon Hayward had plenty of early struggles as well, but there was a very reasonable explanation for them, even if they were a bit more severe at first than many envisioned.
Brown’s early regression was alarming on a number of fronts, though. The third season for any player in the NBA is generally a big year for growth, yet Brown looked like his rookie self at times on the floor for long stretches, a guy Brad Stevens didn’t trust for a good chunk of that 2016-17 season. He was not finishing at the rim, his 3-point shooting (21.3 percent in November) fell off a cliff and his defense took a dive as well. While Stevens and Kyrie Irving championed the team concept and sacrifice, Brown couldn’t seem to help winning regularly (one of lowest net ratings on team in November). An injury led to him losing his starting job to Marcus Smart and his minutes took a big dip as well (29 mpg in October to 23 mpg in December). Brown’s struggles weren’t just an issue for the team in the present day. His value around the league was freefalling as well, making his use as a potential trade chip in a blockbuster less meaningful. The critics wondered whether Danny Ainge had missed a chance to sell high.
Still, Brown has slowly but surely managed to right the ship along with his team over the past few weeks. After scoring 22 points on Wednesday night (7-of-12 FG, 6-of-8 FT), Brown is now averaging 14.6 ppg (fourth on team) in last 10 games while shooting a superb 55 percent from the field. His rebounds (4.3), assists (1.9) and steals (1.3) are all up per game as he has started to become a net positive for this team (+6.0 net rating) while he’s on the floor again.
So what has triggered the change? Brown told BostonSportsJournal.com that the adjustment has come off the floor