After the Boston Celtics‘ fourth-quarter collapse against the Chicago Bulls, Marcus Smart’s public criticism, a reportedly emotional players-only meeting that might not have helped matters and a win over the Orlando Magic, Jaylen Brown said the team is trying to move forward.
In his first public comments since Monday’s game against the Bulls, Brown addressed Smart’s fiery post-game press conference.
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“Obviously in the midst of trying to win games, you know, it’s something that we probably didn’t need,” Brown said Wednesday. “But we all communicate and talk to each other, so we’re all trying to find ways to win. And I’m open to any and everything when guys bring it to me, coaching staff. So I’m always watching film, trying to better myself and be a better basketball player and find ways to make my teammates better.”
The root of all of this is Smart saying that Brown and Jayson Tatum were not actively making their teammates better, or at least that the team was getting too Tatum-and-Brown-centric in important moments. According to ESPN, this was a subject of conversation at the meeting.
“Team meeting, you know, just an opportunity to talk as a group, get some communication going and move forward,” Brown said. “At the end of the day, we’ve been playing basketball together for a long time, all of us, especially our core group, so when it comes down to it, it’s all about trying to find ways to win. And that’s what most of the conversation was about.”
Boston coach Ime Udoka downplayed the “meeting” part of the players-only meeting. He said that the players talked, without coaches present, before a previously planned team dinner.
“It wasn’t really a players-only meeting,” Udoka said. “We had a team dinner scheduled way before anything happened. That was planned for some weeks now. And we gave the players their time before the coaching staff and everybody else came down, so they had about 30 minutes on their own. But it wasn’t anything scheduled by them, it was what we already had planned.”
After the 92-79 win in Orlando, Celtics center Al Horford described it as a “gathering” in a walk-off interview with NBC Sports’ Abby Chin. “All good,” Horford said. “We’re going to be fine. It’s a long season. Our guys are competitive, we want to win and we’re taking steps to be better.” In his post-game press conference, Horford said it was “nice to break bread together, hang out. Most importantly, you know, [we] talked about making sure that we come out here and have a good outing tonight.”
As far as the substance of Smart’s criticism goes, it’s no secret that Brown and Tatum have taken on the lion’s share of Boston’s playmaking responsibility. It’s no secret, either, that the Celtics’ offense can get stagnant when the ball is in their hands. For both of them, the next step is about playmaking for others.
“I’ve preached that from Day 1 with Jayson and Jaylen and guys growing in that area, being playmakers, so it’s stuff we constantly are showing on film, talking about,” Udoka said. “So it’s nothing new as far as what we have shown and done. and they’ve done a great job growing in those areas. So Marcus and Jaylen, Jayson have a history together of being together for a long time, and every team I’ve ever been on or coached has had moments where they butt heads. And so it’s nothing that we haven’t talked about, no area that they haven’t shown improvement and growth in, and so we’ll leave it at that. It’s something that’s addressed and continually preached with those guys. Not trying to blow it out of proportion.”
Smart’s comments will put Brown and Tatum’s decision-making under the microscope, but it’s not like this is the only issue Boston faces. I’m more surprised by Tatum’s inefficiency, and Udoka is likely more concerned about the team’s below-average defense.