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Thrilled By the Prospect Of More Brown

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As Jeff noted on Tuesday, it looks like there is a chance that P.J. Brown's days in green aren't finished.  This is good.

In addition to the possibility of Brown returning to the Celts, the report Jeff Clark cited from Jeff Howe indicated that Brown would likely stick to this past year's template of resting in semi-retirement for the first half of the season and then returning for the playoff run.  This is even better than good.

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While Brown didn't exactly fill up the stat sheet in his first season as a Celtic, his presence was invaluable to the Celts' championship run.  Though he didn't have an effect of quite the same magnitude as James Posey did, Brown is another one of those classic little-things veteran players that championship teams always seem to have conveniently on hand. 

Brown provided the Celtics with size, toughness and savvy at both the four and five.  He rebounded well on both ends of the floor, but even when he wasn't the one actually pulling down the board, Brown tended to be doing the right thing, be it boxing his man out defensively or staying in the scrum to try and tip the ball to a teammate off the offensive glass.  

On the defensive end, Brown gave the Celtics another physical player with the smarts to pick up the team's help schemes quickly at season's end.  At 38, he might have been a step slow from time to time, but more often than not, he rotated well enough to get to the right spots in time to cause trouble for opposing bigs, and he even blocked a few shots as well.  On the occasions that he saw that the defense was going to get beat, Brown wasn't shy about giving a hard foul either and forcing scorers to make their foul shots rather than take free lay-ups off the Celtics' defense.  

Offensively, it was similar scrappy play from the well-traveled veteran.  Brown certainly wasn't and isn't a scoring machine by any means, but that was never to be his job.  He did a very good job staying active without the ball, crashing the boards hard, fighting for loose balls and proving himself an asset as a screener, particularly in the high pick-and-roll.  It didn't hurt that P.J. wasn't averse to getting a big bucket here and there as well, either on a dunk or put-back inside or the now-and-then mid-range jumper, such as the one to extend the Celtics' lead late in the fourth quarter of Game 7 against Cleveland.  That shot has of course already become the stuff of mini-legend for the '08 title run.

The idea of having a player like Brown at least available as an option is particularly comforting given the question marks currently on the bench for the Celtics.  That's not a better-or-worse assessment of the bench one way or the other (we'll get to making a pseudo-informed guess on that as we get closer to the season, I promise) but simply an observation that there is a lot we don't know about these guys.  In the front-court, what Patrick O'Bryant will be after some work with Cliff Ray is anyone's guess.  Leon Powe is the offensive spark of the reserve bigs, but his defense or lack thereof has led to temporary stints in Doc's doghouse in the past.  The Infuriated Infant goes into year two with plenty of uncertainty about his weight and which parts of his game will develop going forward. 

It's possible that these guys will do a commendable job as a unit and that any worries will be assuaged.  But it's also just as possible that this team will be in need of one more veteran helping hand come the stretch run, and given the admirable job Brown did in that role this past season, it would be reassuring to have him back, particularly if he is well-rested.

To that end, having P.J. back for only the latter portion of the season is optimal.  This isn't a guy that needs to be on this team all season, and the big danger with having him on the roster for the breadth of the year would be overuse.  He'll turn 39 before the season starts, and he'll need to conserve as much mileage as possible for crunch time.  Having Brown around for the regular season isn't all that much of a concern.  While he would be useful in his minutes then too, this team is still returning the starting five from a championship squad, and the expectation here remains that the Celtics will be very good barring injuries in the regular season.  But come playoff time, when the games tighten up and the significance of every possession rises, Brown's savvy and veteran presence could be major assets.  Having him be a bit rusty again in some spot minutes late in the regular season is of no bother.  If he can use those minutes to get himself ready to go for the post-season, that would be just fine.

Long story short, it was a pleasure to have P.J. Brown as part of the 2007-08 championship team, and he certainly contributed to the cause.  If the team has in-season questions in the frontcourt and he is willing to help, here's to welcoming him back with open arms.

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