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Jaylen Brown says demotion to bench is 'hardest thing' he's ever dealt with in career

Alex Reimer
December 12, 2018 - 10:43 am

Jaylen Brown has played much better since he’s been placed on the bench. But the third-year forward is still struggling to adjust to his new role. 

In a wide-ranging interview with ESPN’s Jackie MacMullan, Brown expounds on his early season woes. After a breakout sophomore campaign, Brown was one of the worst players in the league over the first 20 games of the year, in which the Celtics went 10-10. He was shooting just 25.3 percent on three-point shots, ranking him 122nd out of 123 players. Last season, Brown was 37th in three-point field goal percentage.

When Brown was on the court, the Celtics were also the worst offensive team in the league, averaging 100.4 points per contest. Defensively, his analytics have slipped, too, though Brad Stevens tells MacMullan Brown has been tasked with guarding a wide array of players this season.

Recently, the 2016 first-round pick lost his starting job to scrappy guard Marcus Smart, who’s taken it upon himself to chastise Brown during games and at practice. The Celtics have won six straight games with Smart in the lineup. 

"It's probably been the hardest thing I've had to deal with so far in my career,” Brown told MacMullan. “Just coming from a position where you had so much responsibility, and now that responsibility is lessened. Expectations have been raised, but your responsibility goes down, so it's hard to reach those expectations when you aren't being asked to do as much.”

Brown was pegged for superstardom entering this season, bragging about his ambitious championship goals and gracing magazine covers. He blossomed in the playoffs, becoming the youngest Celtics player to ever score 30 points in a postseason contest. Overall, Brown averaged 18 points per game in the playoffs, while playing lockdown defense.

But with Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward back in the lineup, Brown has been asked to step back, and it’s been difficult for him to grapple with. MacMullan reports that opposing teams privately say Brown is “disjointed” and “detached.”

Brown has played better over the last three games, averaging 21 points and five rebounds. His 21-point effort last Thursday against the Knicks, who embarrassed the Celtics on their home court before Thanksgiving, may have been his best outing of the season.

Fortunately for Brown, there’s still time to figure everything out. “So here's my reality: I'm an NBA player on the Boston Celtics, a team that has a chance to compete for the NBA championship,” he told MacMullan. “Nothing else really matters.”

Read Jackie MacMullan's full piece here. It is more than worth your time. 

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