The Boston Celtics are the NBA title favorites entering the 2023-24 season, and for them to realize their full potential, they need another excellent campaign from Jaylen Brown.
Brown is coming off the best season of his career, during which he was named an All-Star, averaged 26.6 points per game and was selected to second team All-NBA. He struggled a bit in the Eastern Conference Finals against the Miami Heat, but overall, Brown made good strides in his development.
Brown signed the largest contract in league history in August, and with that come even higher expectations, both individually and as a team. The Celtics have constructed a deep, super-talented roster with the offseason additions of center Kristaps Porzingis and point guard Jrue Holiday. Banner 18 is the goal, and anything less will be considered a disappointment.
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In an exclusive interview with our Celtics insider Chris Forsberg, Brown talked about Boston's defense, working with team legends, the Porzingis and Holiday trades, watching the University of Colorado football team play, and more.
Here were the highlights:
Watching Colorado football with Derrick White
"I think we were just in the locker room here in the summertime getting some work in. And they were doing well. Colorado was making some noise. D-White was talking about it. So I was like, 'Man, I would love to go to a game. I see what (head coach) Deion (Sanders) is doing over there, just everything he's brought to the culture.'
"So I was like, 'D-White, let's do it. I'll go with you. You going to a game?' He was like, 'I'm going to the USC game on the 30th.' Caleb Williams. Shedeur Sanders. Big names, hopefully, in the future of football, somebody we'll see in the NFL and stuff like that. So that's kind of how it came about.
"The experience was great. You would have thought you were at a HBCU or something like that. The way it was jumping in there, it was just -- so many fans, so many people, so many celebrities. You got rappers, you got other NFL players coaching the Colorado side up. At what place can you ever get an experience where we got NFL players actually asking to spend their time to help you, not the other way around? So I think, what Deion has been able to do, and create that coaching environment is special. So it was a really great experience. I really, really had a good time.
"Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett were there. There were a lot of athletes there. But I got to spend some time with Paul and Ticket (Garnett), and they're hilarious. Both of them are non-stop. They're hilarious. They're just like two older brothers, just funny, and just great to be around. So I had a good time."
Learning from past Celtics players
"Absolutely (I can learn from them). I think their experiences are real and what they went through in their journey here, some of it is no different than what we're going through. So being able to hear from their experience and how they navigated it, I think gives you a little bit of insight to how it can help you personally on how to maneuver and go about the journey as well, and it allows people to do what we've been setting out to do.
"So just spending time with them and just building inter-generationally, it's been great. Paul and Ticket, they've just been (around) this summer. They've been super vocal. They've been around. Paul has worked out with me. He's pulled up to the workouts. He's been there."
Hanging out with Paul Pierce in the offseason
"A lot of the stuff you talk about is just off the court. Just life stuff. A lot of jokes, but even on the court, too, some stuff in the post. ... I appreciate it. To have somebody like that in the mix with you as you're grinding, a champion, a multi-time All-Star, Hall of Famer, etc., around, it's a blessing. I think that's really cool."
Do expectations feel heightened this season?
"For me personally, no. And hopefully I can keep that away from our group. I think, obviously, we know what the expectation is, but we just need to not know. We need to come out and be the best versions of ourselves each and every day. I think that's the key. Just focusing on the task at hand in front of us.
"We don't want to get comfortable or get lazy waiting for the playoffs. We need to treat every day like it's just as important as the last and just completely run through the finish line."
Coming to camp early
"I think (head coach) Joe (Mazzulla) wanted us to be in. I had some other stuff, obligations. So I was in and out, but I definitely wanted to make my presence here with the young guys, get some workouts with them, go through some actions with them, let the coaching staff get familiar with me, get familiar with them and the new actions that we were in.
"And Joe's got a year under his belt. He wants to get a little bit more established this season. Just to show your face a little bit was important. So I made the time."
The acquisition of Jrue Holiday
"Jrue's really good. He's like the fighter that is always walking you down. You watch boxing, you know, the fighter who's always putting pressure on you? Just not always trying to swing or throw a punch, but just always in your space? That's kind of Jrue. He's always in that box, you know what I mean?
"He's just always close enough, and his presence itself can make you make a mistake. So just being a part on the same team now is going to be great as a competitor, as a person who has guarded him and he has guarded me as well. The respect is through the roof, to be honest. Jrue is one of those types of players who a lot of guys nod their head at. So to have him on your team now, it's no excuse for you looking across the line to bring out the best, and that's what I want to do.
"I want to bring out the best in the people around me. I want to bring the best out of myself. Let's all challenge ourselves towards greatness this year, rather than looking around and being like, 'Oh, somebody else is going to do it.'"
How Kristaps Porzingis can help the Celtics
"Kristaps is great. Obviously, his shooting ability at his size is tremendous to be able to space the floor. That's going to fit right in our system. But defensively is what I definitely want to continue to make an impact on him. I want him to be a shot blocker. I want all of us to get defensive team votes this year.
"I want all of us to be on that type of time, so challenging each other to get the most out of each other throughout the year is going to be key, and it's going to take transparency. It's going to take getting into it with each other a little bit, but all in a constructive manner, like we all know what we're working hard for.
"So let's challenge each other every day to towards that goal."
Playing better defense individually and as a team
"To challenge myself more throughout the year is important because in the playoffs I take on certain roles and responsibilities, no problem. But even challenging yourself throughout the year to push yourself in that regard, because that's the side of the ball that we don't appreciate as much as a part of the game, that we don't appreciate as much.
"We emphasize and glorify the offensive side, but the defense can really effect winning. So really taking that serious and really locking in, really pushing the teammates around you, trying to be the best you can be."