Celtics-Spurs preview: Celts expect a challenge

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Celtics-Spurs preview: Celts expect a challenge

By Jessica Camerato
CSNNE.com

The Boston Celtics will face one of their biggest tests this season when they battle the San Antonio Spurs on Wednesday. The Spurs hold the best record in the NBA, and the Celtics are ready for a challenge.

Shaquille ONeal
Theyre one of the best teams in the league and were going to have our hands full. Against a team like that, youve got to do everything right . . . They pose major challenges. We match up with them very well, they match up with us very well. The team that plays the hardest and gets all the loose balls and gets all the rebounds is the team thats probably going to win.
Ray Allen
We cant have a bad start. We cant come out and think that well get back in the game, or well kind of slow roll this into playing good basketball. Theyve got the best record in the league and for a reason. They play well at home and on the road. So we have to come out and we have to execute, weve got to know our personnel, and weve got to make sure we take away the easy stuff.

Nate Robinson
Theyre rolling. Theyre playing well. Ive watched a couple of their games and theyve got everybody clicking on all cylinders. Theyre just a team thats been together for a long time, and then theyve got a couple new pieces - Gary Neal knocking down the shot - youve got the Red Rocket Matt Bonner over there, hes knocking down shots, playing the way theyve been playing. The team chemistry is awesome. So a team like that coming in, weve just got to match their intensity and just play our game and well be fine.
Delonte West
Theyre one of those teams to beat. Theyre playing Spurs basketball, and theyre playing at their top level, a championship level. Itll be a good midseason test for us and for them also. But were not at full strength, I think they may not be, so depending on how many guys we have out there or whos going to be able to go, it might not be a strong indication of whos the better team right now. But its all still a good matchup for both teams . . . Ill be watching on the bench.

Marquis Daniels
Theyre a good team. They play hard and theyre rolling right now. Theyre doing a lot of great things . . . Its a good matchup for us. Weve just got to go out there and continue to do what weve been doing best -- getting after it on the defensive end, getting easy baskets.

Von Wafer
Its going to be a good game and Im excited because its going to tell us a lot about ourselves. Its a big measuring stick for what were trying to accomplish and what we need to work on. I think theyre going to expose any weaknesses we have, and thats a good thing so we can work on them and get them stronger.

Luke Harangody
I think just top to bottom, theyve got a deep squad. Theyve got a number of veteran players that know how to win. Theres a lot of other talk going on, but year after year the Spurs are a quality team, a playoff team.

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Jaylen Brown may be the future of Celtics, but he's focused on now

Jaylen Brown may be the future of Celtics, but he's focused on now

BOSTON – This is not how this is supposed to work.

When the regular season ends for high draft picks, there’s usually a nice, warm island awaiting their arrival in late-April when the regular season ends.

But this was no typical rookie season for Boston’s Jaylen Brown.

And as we have seen, Brown isn’t your typical rookie.

Drafted with the third overall pick in last June’s NBA draft, the 6-foot-7 Brown found himself in the rotation on a Celtics team that advanced all the way to the Eastern Conference finals before having their season end at the hands of the defending NBA champion Cleveland Cavaliers.

The path towards individual and team success is littered with struggles and potholes of strife along with the pain of disappointment cluttering up things as well.

From within that rubble lies promise; the kind that has Celtics Nation justifiably excited about the future of Brown with the Celtics.

But Brown isn’t about the future, folks.

“I’m excited about the now,” he said. “I’m excited about this summer. I try not to look too far ahead. Everybody talks about the future and how much potential we have; I’m worried about the now. I want to be part of the now. That’s all I’m focused on.”

That kind of focus is among the many reasons that despite being a rookie, his teammates quickly sensed that the now-20-year-old had his sights set on not just talking about cracking the rotation but actually putting in the work that would leave head coach Brad Stevens no choice but to play him.

“He’s going to be really good,” said Boston’s Gerald Green. “If he keeps his same mentality; he’s humble. And continue to work on his game and continue to learn.

Green added, “he couldn’t be in a better place, than being here. With his talent and his work ethic, he’s going to be great.”

But like most rookies, Brown’s play was anything but a steady on-the-rise movement.

His first NBA start came on the road at Cleveland on Nov. 3.

Boston lost the game, but Brown won over many with his career-high 19 points while spending a good deal of the night guarding LeBron James.

In his next four games, Brown scored a total of just 17 points.

And in Boston’s first-round series with Chicago, Brown's role shrunk in the last four games – all Celtics wins. In those games, he played a total of just under 10 minutes.

So what did he do?

He got back in the gym, continued to work on his game and do a better job at making the most of the minutes he received.

More than anything else, Brown attributes his improved play as the season progressed to simply figuring out the NBA landscape as far as what he could do and what he needed to work on, to get better.

Which is why there are many who believe that Brown will be a much better player than the one we saw this season.

That said, he still had decent numbers – 6.6 points and 2.8 rebounds while shooting 45.4 percent from the field and 34.1 percent from 3-point range.

“I didn’t know what I was getting myself into, coming into the NBA,” Brown said. “Throughout the year, I don’t think people expected me to contribute as much as I did. Now just getting to the Eastern  Conference finals and losing, it builds a hunger you know;  I have a bad taste in my mouth. Gotta put in work during the offseason and come back stronger.”

Like Brown, Al Horford came into the NBA as a high draft pick who wound up in the playoffs that rookie season.

Horford can totally relate to Brown’s comments about not knowing what he was getting into.

“The first year you’re really feeling everything out,” Horford said. “Jaylen has an understanding now of what the league is about. It’s a lot for a rookie to handle. Now he has a better idea (so) he can just focus on getting better, working on his game and I expect him to be much better his second year.”

Brown will have the knowledge gained from being part of a team that came within three wins of getting to the NBA Finals.

To come that close is tough to accept, but Brown sees it all as part of a bigger plan for him and his role with the Celtics moving forward.

“I can use it as fuel. I’ve been learning all year,” Brown said. “I’ve had ups, I’ve had downs, I’ve had opportunities, I’ve had mistakes. So I’ve been learning and growing and improving all year and I’m going to continue to grow and improve and prove people wrong, prove doubters wrong.”

And that process Brown speaks of has certainly been aided by being in a successful situation like Boston compared to some other lottery picks who saw lots of playing time but showed minimal growth playing lots of minutes.

“Being on a winning team and developing good habits, learning how to win, play the game the right way … learning that at a young age is really going to help me,” Brown said. “A lot of young guys, they don’t learn that early. They have to figure it out three, four, five years in. I’m happy I learned it now.”

And while the learning will continue on for Brown during this offseason, it won’t be nearly as tough now than it was when he came into the league.

“I know exactly what I’m preparing for,” Brown said. “I expect a really different result.”

Brown added, “I want to be ready for whatever is thrown at me; no excuses whatsoever.”

Now that’s how this is supposed to work!