Boston Celtics

Kobe loves Rajon


Kobe loves Rajon

Last year, right around this time, then-Pacers GM and always-Celtics deity Larry Bird was a guest on Bill Simmons podcast. If you somehow missed it, you can listen right here, and you most definitely should.

Seriously, what are you waiting for?

Anyway, the one part of Bill and Larry's conversation that's always stuck with me is the following:

Simmons: If you could choose any current player that you'd like to play a season with, who would it be?

Bird: "Well, probably Kobe, because of the fact that ... well, of course he wouldn't have been shooting as much as he does now ... but his desire to win, his dedication, to always get better, uh, and he's just, he's just tough. He's just a tough cat."

At the time, for obvious reasons, Bird's answer shocked me. Kobe? A Laker? How could he? After all he'd been through with the Celtics . . . After all the hate he'd fostered for the Purple and Gold . . .

Of course, I understand him respecting Kobe's game, but I figured Bryant would be the guy that Bird would want to compete against, not play with.

But hey, what can you do? Get mad at Larry Bird? I don't think so. If anything, it just increased the level of respect I have for Kobe. In fact, since hearing Bird's answer, I feel like I've come to better understand what Bryant's all about, what makes him tick, and why, although he's certainly not void of criticism, he's far more deserving of our admiration.

Anyway, I was reminded of this whole story last night, when Bryant sent out this tweet to his more than 1M followers:
Gotta give well wishes to Rondo. One of my fav players in the world. My prayers r with u lil bro. I'm here if u need me respect Kobe Bryant (@kobebryant) January 28, 2013Of all people, right?

And it's not like Kobe just said, "Get well soon, buddy." Even that would have been enough to get your attention. To leave you thinking, "Oh, wow. I can't believe Kobe would reach out to Rondo like that." But what he actually said is mind-blowing.

Of course, Kobe doesn't see Rondo every day. In fact, he's only played against him in two NBA Finals, and then twice a year in games that qualify as two of the biggest in any Celtics season. For that reason, he's likely only seen motivated Rondo. Focused Rondo. The Rondo that we all know can go toe-to-toe with just about anyone in the game. Would Kobe say the same thing if he shared a locker room with No. 9? Would KG and Pierce call Rondo "one of my fav players in the world"?

I think they'd say something along those lines, although probably not as emphatically. Then again, in terms of attitude and perception, Rondo's probably more like Kobe than he is Pierce or Garnett.

And while some might consider that a bad thing, I know one guy who would disagree.

Rich can be reached at Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrich_levine

Brown ready to embrace role with new-look Celtics

Brown ready to embrace role with new-look Celtics

BOSTON – Like most of us, Jaylen Brown watched intently as the Boston Celtics overhauled their roster in a way in which no one on the payroll could untouchable.

Armed with the number one overall pick in last June’s NBA draft, the Boston Celtics traded down two spots to pick up a wing player (Jayson Tatum) who plays the same position as Brown.

Later on, the Celtics traded away Avery Bradley to Detroit.

Soon after, Jae Crowder and Isaiah Thomas were Cleveland-bound in a deal that brought Kyrie Irving to Boston.

Things have changed, quickly.

MORE: Celtics storylines: Who fills out the starting lineup?

But being a high-profile high school player who spent one year in college before entering the NBA, Brown is well-versed on how to adapt quickly to new surroundings.

Brown might find himself getting used to yet another new role as an NBA starter this season.

When training camp opens next week for the Celtics, there will be at least two positions in the starting five up for grabs courtesy of Bradley and Crowder being in Detroit and Cleveland, respectively.

Thomas’ starting job will be handled by Irving who will be joined in the starting lineup by Al Horford and another new face to the Celtics roster, Gordon Hayward who signed a four-year, $127.8 million contract with Boston this summer after having spent his first seven NBA seasons in Utah.

Brown said he hadn’t put too much thought into all the changes that Boston was making this offseason.

“I knew a lot of stuff was going on and it was a lot of changes but it was above my pay grade,” Brown said. “Right now my job is to come in and play basketball and leave the politics up to the front office and you guys. It had nothing to do with me. I just try to come out and play hard, and try and be the best person and basketball player. . .  I can be. I try not to think too much of it.”

But it’s hard to ignore the possibility that he could be in the starting lineup on opening night, an opportunity he will have to earn with his play in training camp.

“(Head coach Brad Stevens) is going to do whatever he feels is best for the team and I support that,” Brown said. “Whatever it is that he decides, is what he decides. But I’m here, I’m available and I’m ready to work. It’s going to be a good year.”

The possibility that Brown could be in the regular starting lineup in his second season isn’t all that unusual for a player taken with the third overall pick in the draft.

But unlike most rookies, Brown wasn’t selected by a team where playing time was a given.

He joined an experienced squad that had its sights on a deep playoff run, something that runs counter-intuitive to what most high draft picks experience their first year.

But the Celtics advanced all the way to the Eastern Conference finals before falling to Cleveland in five games.

And as Boston went deeper into its season, Brown steadily worked his way into regular minutes which has helped put him here, potentially on the cusp of being a regular starter.

“My mindset is the same in a lot of ways, and is different in a lot of ways,” Brown said. “It’s the same in the sense where I’m just working, trying to get better each and every day just like last year; just constantly push myself for greatness. Where it’s different now, my mindset is I know a little bit more, I have my feet under me. A little bit more is expected of me.”

Throughout the summer, Celtics head coach Brad Stevens has been pleased with the growth he has seen in Brown’s game.

But for him to help the Celtics this season, Stevens believes it’ll have to come on the defensive end of the floor.

“Jaylen has to become a lockdown defender for us," Stevens said on the Vertical Podcast with Chris Mannix, earlier this summer. "That's where, as you go into an offseason and you are an individual player, there's a ton of things that you want to get better at, and there's a ton of things you want to add to your game. But ultimately, when you get back to your team, it's what do you do that's different to make your team unique to give yourself the best chance of adding value to winning. We need him to become that."