By Matthew Geagan, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) -- Jaylen Brown was having a career year for the Celtics last season before a wrist injury ended his campaign early. Losing Brown robbed the Celtics of any chance that the team had of making their first-round playoff series against the Brooklyn Nets interesting, and Brown to showcase his vastly improved game on the NBA's biggest stage.
Brown had to undergo surgery on his wrist as his teammates finished out the year, but he was always there to provide insight and some encouragement from the bench. More importantly, he is good to go for the start of training camp on Tuesday, and the Boston swingman is expecting even bigger steps in his game in his sixth NBA season.
While he didn't like having to sit out at the most important time of the year, Brown said the injury gave him the rest he needed to get his body ready for the upcoming season.
"Last year going into the season, we didn't have a lot of recovery time going from the bubble to the next year. My body felt it with knee issues. I didn't have the normal explosiveness that I like to have," Brown explained at Monday's media day. "It was a lot for my body and for the most part, it held up. But I was injured, an isolated injury. My body could have felt better going into the year, but now I feel athletic, fast, dynamic."
If Brown didn't have his normal explosiveness to start last season, it's wild to think of what he'll be able to do in 2021-22. He made major strides with his game last year, averaging a career-best 24.6 points per game while shooting nearly 40 percent from downtown. He was an assassin from midrange as well, hitting 48 percent of his shots from 10-16 feet from the hoop and 70 percent of his attempts around the basket. With his continued excellence on the defensive end, Brown easily earned his first All-Star selection last season.
Jayson Tatum receives much of the attention in Boston, and rightfully so. But Brown is no No. 2 -- he's a solid 1A next to Tatum, which has new head coach Ime Udoka referring to the duo as the pillars of the franchise. It's a title that Brown welcomes, and he's going to do everything in his power to live up to the moniker.
"Embrace it," he said of his spot near the top of the team's totem pole.
But he also understands that being at the top of his game doesn't mean that he and Tatum are the only ones making shots. With all the attention they'll receive from opposing defenses, it's important for them to find teammates when they have easy looks.
"It's going to take a collective effort, for sure. Being leaders, it's about maximizing our potential as well as others," said Brown, who averaged a career-best 3.4 assists last season. "I'm excited. The mindset is a championship mentality. I look forward to playing basketball the right way and seeing where that takes us."
Brown is confident that the Celtics will be playing "the right way" under Udoka, who received the stamp of approval from Tatum and Brown before he was brought in by Brad Stevens to take over the Boston bench. Udoka was never a star in the league during his playing days, and understands that it takes everyone on the roster to win consistently. Defense is the name of the game under the former Gregg Popovich disciple, and he's a firm believer in moving the ball around and getting everyone involved on offense.
The Celtics were far too stagnant on offense last season, with way too much hero ball and way too much standing around by players not directly involved in the play. It will take a collective effort from Boston to change that this season, and Brown is ready to step up and echo Udoko'a message on the floor.
"He has my full attention and full respect. I'm completely bought in and trying to be an extension of him on the court," Brown said Monday. "I want to make sure his start with the Celtics is a good one, and we are looking forward to utilizing each other to get the best out of this team and this organization."
Brown and Tatum have both said that they're open to receiving some "hard coaching" from Udoka, which will keep them motivated throughout the season.
"I'm open to any form of teaching that exists, that I'll be able to adapt and gravitate to. Having open communication is most important," said Brown. "I expect to be in his office a lot, talking a lot, trying to get the most out of this group."
As a team, the Celtics had a disappointing step backward last season. While Brown and Tatum both played great individually, it did not always lead to team success. It too often led to solid games from the two rising stars, but losses for the Celtics.
Brown is ready to change that. While he's eager to take more steps toward superstardom, he's a lot more eager to see his impact lead to a lot more success for everyone in green.
"The past is the past. Of course you learn from it, but you also put it behind you at the same time and don't let it carry into your future," he said. "We have a new team, new head coach, new people in the weight room. It's a whole new look for the organization, it's more diverse. I'm optimistic that as we continue to have the culture on and off the court, we'll continue to get better as individuals and make Boston proud.
"And we'll win games in the meantime," Brown added. "I'm looking forward to it."
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