Pietrus keeps mood light, could be X-factor for C's

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Pietrus keeps mood light, could be X-factor for C's

BOSTON It's rare to find Mickael Pietrus without a smile.

Shooting slump. Turnover. Concussion.

It doesn't matter.

He's one of those the glass-is-always-half-full kind of people.

Having someone provide what seems to be a never-ending supply of positivity is a good thing for the Boston Celtics.

But it is his talent more than anything else, that has both Pietrus and the C's excited about the postseason.

While much of the focus heading into their first round series against Atlanta will focus on the Big Four, there's always a player or two that emerges as an X-factor.

Pietrus is that kind of player.

He is a role player, for sure. But at times, that role has morphed from that of a back-up, to one in which he's taking center stage in leading his team to victory.

The C's saw that first-hand in 2009 when he played with Orlando and played a huge role in knocking off the C's in the playoffs.

Pietrus is hoping to make a similar impact as a member of the Celtics now.

"My role is to win championships," said Pietrus, who signed with the Celtics shortly after being waived by Phoenix. "That's why I'm here for, to win championship. That's why they call it the Celtics. They want to win championships. I want them to have one this year with me, so I'm very excited."

From the time he arrived in Boston, back when the Celtics were treading water as a .500 team, he talked of winning a title.

It never bothered him when folks thought he was just plain cuckoo for having such lofty goals for a team that no one was sure would even get to the playoffs at that point, let alone compete for a title.

"I know this team; I know they would be better, a lot better the second half of the season," Pietrus told CSNNE.com.

Indeed, the Celtics have been one of the NBA's top teams after the all-star break with Pietrus' play being instrumental in that success.

However, a concussion at Philadelphia on March 23 sidelined him for 11 games.

While disappointed that he would have to miss games, Pierce told CSNNE.com the next day that he felt fortunate that it was just a concussion and not a career-ending injury. Replays showed that on the play, Pietrus landed squarely on the base of his neck.

"Every time I see it, it just makes me cry," Pietrus told CSNNE.com shortly after the injury. "Because I know it could have been so much worse for me."

And moments later, in that seemingly always-cheerful voice, Pietrus said, "So, how are you doing?"

Celtics coach Doc Rivers has talked all season about as much as Pietrus has meant to the Celtics in terms of wins and losses, he has been just as valuable inside the locker room.

One moment, he's cracking jokes on teammates, the next he's cracking down defensively on an opposing perimeter player.

"He's a great spirit," Rivers said. "The guy likes basketball and he plays hard. I'll take that all day."

So will his teammates, some of whom liken his role with this C's team similar to the role played by James Posey during the Celtics' 2008 title run.

"He's got a lot of intangibles," C's Paul Pierce told CSNNE.com. "He really bothers people defensively, knocks down open 3s. He's like that glue guy, that in-between guy that you need to win a championship. You know what your stars are going to bring, but you need guys like him."

When the playoffs arrive, there's no telling what it will take for the Celtics to win a game, let alone a series.

They will need players to seemingly come out of nowhere with big games every now and then.

Pietrus has the ability to do that, when called upon.

"Mickael, he brings a love for the game and a consistent energy. That's crucial," said Danny Ainge, Boston's president of basketball operations. "He's also confident. He's not afraid of the big moment. That's good to have a guy like that on your bench, who's not afraid to come in and take the shot when it's there and not worry about the consequences, but just keep playing. Sometimes in playoff games, they get ugly, 36 percent shooting and you could still win if you stay involved in the game. That's what I like about him. He could miss four (shots) in a row, but he's taking the next one. In that game, that might be huge."

And while he's dealing with some soreness in his surgically repaired right knee, Pietrus says it won't have an affect on him gearing up for his first playoff run with the Celtics.

"In this locker (room)," Pietrus says, "they say, pain or regrets? I will rather get the pain."

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!