BOSTON – When it comes to the NBA playoffs, teams have a tendency to shorten their rotation. Usually teams tend to lean a bit more on their proven players rather than rookies.
That is why Celtics rookie Jaylen Brown, a solid contributor off the Celtics bench and at times as a starter, has spent the past few days since the season ended doing all he can to convince folks that he’s ready for playoff basketball.
“It’s a higher level of basketball. I have to be ready and prove not only to the fans but I have to prove it to my teammates and coaching staff that I understand the importance of playoffs,” Brown told CSNNE.com. “They might think a rookie isn’t as prepared or isn’t ready for that type of basketball. So I have to show coach I’m ready, show the world that I’m ready and I can play at this level of basketball, at a high level.”
Brown being in the playoffs, let alone a regular in the rotation as a rookie, is highly unusual.
In fact, the 20-year-old Brown has appeared in more games this season (80) than all rookies in the playoffs except for Oklahoma City’s Domantas Sabonis (81).
Brown, taken by the Celtics with the No. 3 overall pick, has impressed many for years with his athleticism. But he understands success in the postseason is as much about your mental state as it is your ability.
Fortunately for Brown, he has spent years working on honing his mental game to where the pressure of the playoffs isn’t likely to overwhelm him.
Graham Betchart is a mental skills coach who has worked with Brown since he was 15 years old.
“Obviously, with the playoffs there’s a huge influx of energy; massive energy is put into all these games,” Betchart told CSNNE.com in a phone interview. “And the secret is not getting caught up in all the shifting and focus of thinking about results, outcomes … you just have to trust all the mental training that he’s done and remain being present and just harness all that energy.”
Brown has carried himself with a relatively level-headed demeanor all season, something he attributes to working with Betchart.
“From an understanding standpoint and being mature, a lot of stuff has been thrown at (me),” Brown said. “How you handle it can affect how much you get on the floor. Everything they’ve thrown at me, I think I’ve handled the right way and I will continue to handle the right way and strive to be the best that I can be.”
Brown has a routine, but declined to give specifics.
One aspect of it is what Betchart calls the M.V.P. system.
“We’ve always done a routine,” Betchart said. “It’s called the MVP: Meditate, Visualize with some Positive self-thought. Me and (Brown) have done that a ton of times together.
Betchart added, “He now has that in his repertoire, his own pre-game routine. It gets himself focused, locked in. Just like your body, you don’t just show up on the court and play. You have a process of getting yourself warmed up. It’s the same thing mentally. You just slowly work on getting yourself mentally focused.”
That’s why Betchart isn’t overly concerned with Brown and how he’ll handle the added pressure that comes with being in the playoffs.
“One of the things about having done a lot of mental training, is he’s prepared for these moments,” Betchart said. “Obviously, he’s never felt this energy before. How could you? But he’s played big time high school, college basketball. But there’s nothing like a Celtics playoff game. You can’t replicate that anywhere, not in the regular season. He’ll adjust to the energy, and all his training will kick in and he’ll be present.”
Present, and ready to make an impact.
“Everything is just … more intense,” Brown said. “It sounds like fun to me.”