Jaylen Brown was questionable heading into Opening Night.
After a positive COVID test less than two weeks ago put Brown in the league’s health and safety protocols, he had to be quarantined and away from the Celtics for ten days. While the team completed training camp and got valuable experience from three preseason games, Brown, well, just breathed through it.
His bout with the coronavirus was largely asymptomatic, but Brown did suffer some irregular breathing. He turned to meditation to help focus on it that included 30-minute to hours long sessions to clear the physical restrictions in his chest and nose. Mentally, he was anticipating the upcoming season and his eventual return to the court.
Jaylen Brown was in quarantine away from his team biting at the chance to come back and he returned with a career high in points tonight vs New York ☘️— Celtics on NBC Sports Boston (@NBCSCeltics) October 21, 2021
Presented by New England Ford Dealers pic.twitter.com/yCBc4i9MXj
“I spent a lot of time in quarantine thinking about when I was going to get back out there, just imagining, seeing the game, visualizing,” Brown said after the Celtics double-overtime 138-134 loss to the Knicks on Opening Night. “Some shots fell tonight. I only had really twenty-four hours to prepare. My breathing felt irregular, but fine for the most part. Towards the end, I could feel my heart beating through my chest.”
It certainly was a heart-pounding game, particularly for Brown. Watching shots fall in your mind’s eye is one thing, but dropping 46 points on Opening Night in Madison Square Garden and on national television is another. In a pair of Kobe 5’s (Brown was previously with Adidas, but is a shoe free agent at the moment), he was electric throughout, hitting 8-for-14 from behind the arc, including a 27-footer from the Knicks logo that drew Boston to within a point with six seconds left.
Head coach Ime Udoka initially had wanted to play Brown in shorter stints to allow him to play hard and catch his wind, but with the run that Brown had the entire game, he instead elected to ride his hot hand. “We would have called more sets to create movement, but we wanted to ride Jaylen Brown a little bit,” Udoka said. “We had some mismatches that we wanted to attack. We’ll usually run sets with more movement.”
Not only was the 46 points a career-high for Brown, but it was also a Celtics record for a player in a regular season opener. It wasn’t just about hitting shots because he’s consistently added layers to his game over the past three summers. In 2019, he became a consistent three-point shooter and dismissed any pre-draft profiles that said he was raw and couldn’t fix his jumper. In 2020, he tightened his handle and became a crafty one-on-one dribbler. This summer, Brown was tasked to tie that all together and become a better playmaker. Against the Knicks on Wednesday night, Brown attacked the paint time and time again as a primary ball handler and dished out six assists.
But for the six-year pro, this has never been about his own personal accolades. As a franchise cornerstone and more so, a leader in this year’s locker room, Brown stays focused on the team and what they can accomplish. “I don’t think we played as well as possible could, but I’m excited. I’m excited for this team and this journey. I liked — I loved — our resiliency tonight.”