Friday Free Throws: Rondo issues a challenge

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Friday Free Throws: Rondo issues a challenge

By Jessica Camerato
CSNNE.com Follow @JCameratoNBA
Welcome back to Friday Free Throws, a weekly recap of the most interesting news, notes, and information that have not made the headlines. The NBA lockout may be one week underway, but there is still plenty of hoops to talk about.

Think itd be cool to play a game of H-O-R-S-E against Rajon Rondo? One fan will have the chance on July 15, thanks to Rondos fan contest. Last week Rondo announced on his Facebook page, I'm gonna fly a lucky fan to my camp in Louisville to play me in a game of HORSE. Fans then submitted photos to show why they are the ultimate fan. Of those, 20 fans were selected and now Rondo wants help in choosing the winner. Check out the entrants and cast your vote on Fantapper.

Rondo also promoted the contest on Twitter, where he has been giving shoutouts and retweets to his supporters all summer. From a photo of a young fan in a Rondo jersey to a woman who gave her son the middle name Rajon, to a fan who dedicated her 3,000th tweet to him, Rondo has been busy interacting via his account @RajonRondo.

The Truth is Tough
The Truth is, DIME Magazine thinks Paul Pierce is pretty tough. DIME recently ranked their list of the 10 toughest players in the NBA and Pierce came in at number five. Another player who deserves to be on this list for more reasons than one, wrote Sean Sweeney. Firstly, there might be 10 players in the league who have better minds than Pierce. Hes where he is today as arguably one of the two or three best Celtics ever because of his focus and mental fortitude. Thats a longer way of just saying hes really smart.

Other players rounding out the list include (in order from number one to ten) Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash, Manu Ginobili, Dirk Nowitzki, Pierce, Wesley Matthews, Carl Landry, Grant Hill, Anthony Carter and Udonis Haslem.

Custom Kicks for Kemba
Earlier in the week Kemba Walker signed with Under Armour, becoming the first player from the 2011 draft class to ink a shoe deal. Darren Rovell of CNBC, who first reported the news, caught up with Walker and Under Armour's senior vice-president of sports marketing, Matt Mirchin, about the endorsement. They talked about Walkers decision to sign with Under Armour, the possibility of a signature shoe (Right now, we're going to build custom shoes for Kemba, said Mirchin), and more. Check out the entire interview here.

A Piece of Celtics History for a Good Cause
The Boston Celtics Shamrock Foundation is holding an auction to benefit the Mass Tornado Relief Fund through July 13. Fans can bid on a basketball autographed by 10 Celtics Hall of Famers, including Bill Russell, Larry Bird, Dennis Johnson and Tommy Heinsohn. Fans can also donate five dollars to the relief fund by texting CELTICS to 20222.
Erden to Represent Turkey
Former Celtic Semih Erden was named to the Turkish Basketball Team, which will compete in the European Basketball Championship taking place in Lithuania later this summer. Erden, who was traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers in February, will be joined by four other NBA players Omer Asik, Ersan Ilyasova, Hedo Turkoglu and 2011 third overall draft pick Enes Kanter.

Celtics Tweet of the Week
@Kevin Eastman: Success favors people who show the resolve 2 keep coming back from setbacks. Setbacks remind us 2 get set n back at it!

This Week in NBA History
The Boston Celtics signed Rasheed Wallace as a free agent on July 8, 2009. Wallace played one season of his multiyear contract, averaging 9.0 points and 4.1 rebounds in 79 games (13 starts), and was waived by the Celtics in August of 2010. Wallace has never officially announced his retirement, though, and fans buzzed with questions of his possible return during last season.

Birthdays of the Week
We have to go back in the day for this week's Celtics birthday -- Jim Barnett, who played 48 games during the 1966-67 season, turned 67 on July 7. He was the Celtics; first round draft pick (8th overall) in 1966.

Jessica Camerato is on Twitter at http:twitter.com!JCameratoNBA

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!