Celtics notebook: Jaylen Brown as Boston leader, one-on-one talks and new NBA protocols

BOSTON – Life is a little different for Jaylen Brown in the short term. Celtics iron man Jayson Tatum has missed the last two games for the first time this season due to health and safety protocols.

This means Brown is the center of attention – and the screening report. It’s a new role, he even admits, as the Celtics guy in their current iteration.

“I’m not afraid of being in this position – of having the opportunity to lead a team,” Brown said. “I haven’t played this role very often, but I accept it. I try to inspire my guys every night and we learn as the process progresses.

Results have been mixed so far in both games, the latest being a 91-82 loss to the Clippers on Wednesday. While Brown averages 28 points and nine rebounds, he’s also shooting 35 percent from the field. Minnesota’s loss, in particular, was a difficult performance as he personally took the blame and said he let his team down.

There are other criticisms. Brown finished with 36 field goal attempts against the Clippers, but no help. In all fairness, Brown probably finishes with at least a few assists if the Celtics don’t shoot a surprising 4 for 42 on 3 points. As Brown started out hot on the pitch, missed shots started to pile up on the stretch.

But it’s all a learning process – and that’s the life of the Celtics. Brown is arguably the perfect example. He just turned 25 and his running mate is a 23-year-old, two-time All-Star at Tatum. Both were in deep playoffs, but now they’re the best guys on the team. There is naturally a period of adjustment that comes with such a territory.

“I know (Wednesday) resulted in a loss, but I think we’ll be better off,” Brown said. “I think the guys understand things the way I did. Like every night. And I’m not looking for any excuse. So I accept the challenge. And I will continue to find ways to learn and grow, to be better for my team.

Of course, while the Celtics are 0-2 in games without Tatum, they have been shorthanded. But the same goes for the Clippers and Timberwolves in both games. This is the NBA’s fight as the proceeds have been cut down due to all the absence of COVID-19 mixed with injuries.

Brown said he was just trying to “reduce the pressure as much as possible” on his teammates. The Celtics are now looking to bounce back from a three-game losing streak, one that puts them at 16-19 and tied for 10th in the Eastern Conference.

“Nobody expects you to go out and hit home runs,” Brown said. “We just gotta hit singles, man. In addition to inspiring my teammates in this regard, I am also committed to making the game easier.

Adapt to the new schedule

Among the chaos the league has seen in recent weeks, there are also changes in training habits. Shootarounds aren’t really a thing; the schedule means teams don’t train a lot to start. This is just one of the many hurdles teams must overcome as they add 10-day emergency players to the roster.

Roles also change on the fly. Payton Pritchard wasn’t in the rotation for much of the season, now he’s the starting point guard with Marcus Smart and Dennis Schröder both unavailable. This applies to many other players who see a slight increase in a matter of minutes, while waiting for them to be actually available.

It means adapting to Udoka and his coaching staff. He said they’ve focused on watching movies and other methods of making sure the guys get the information and preparation they need before games. There are also a lot of conversations, especially when it comes to specific roles.

“What we really started doing more of is having one-on-one sessions with guys during this downtime,” Udoka said. “You can have a guided tour – a hidden tour – and it’s not a full shooting session or obviously not a practice. But they train their representatives individually and then it’s on the film that we really have to rely.

New protocols

The NBA and the rest of the nation are experiencing a new reality after the Center of Disease Control released new guidelines for COVID-19. One of the most significant changes includes a five-day quarantine, compared to 10 days, if an individual is positive for the virus and has no symptoms.

The league would soon move to a six-day rule, where asymptomatic gamers could drop the quarantine earlier if data shows they are no longer infectious. But with the new guidance from the CDC, more adjustments are coming. In short, that means the Celtics could pick up players like Tatum earlier than what was a 10-day quarantine, until everything else goes well.

“You would guess,” Udoka said of Tatum’s early removal of the quarantine. “It’s not just league wide, the CDC has released the same thing. So this should be of benefit to some guys. As long as you have the negatives, you can come back sooner. So you would assume so.

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