Mfiondu Kabengele has NBA athleticism and a high motor. That’s plenty enough to excel in college and even in the G-League. It just isn’t enough to stick in the NBA. As a two-way player this year, he has a golden opportunity to prove himself at this level.
In order to take that next step, he has to learn how to think the game effectively. Thankfully he’s a willing and eager learner. He is also lucky enough to have a good coaching staff and teammates willing to help him. In particular, Jaylen Brown has taken an interest in mentoring the guy they call “Fi.”
Brown took an interest in Kabengele after the 25-year-old big, who is fighting for a rotation spot, started coming to him early on for advice in training camp. Though Kabengele is just a two-way player hoping for some second-unit minutes, he wanted to learn how to do his job as if he was the starting center.
“I asked him a lot about pick-and-roll angles, how I should roll and what I should look for,” Kabengele said. “It is a little selfish, but I want to roll so I can be a threat as well. I know that (Jayson Tatum) and Jaylen, they’re that “guy” and you got to respect what they do. So I’ll ask Jaylen how can I be a threat when I’m setting screens. … He told me tips and tricks on how to angle it, how I should roll, things to look for before I set a pick.”
Judging from preseason (admittedly a small sample size), he still has a way to go before he could be counted on for meaningful minutes with the parent club. However, if he continues to work on his game with the right teaching, he might be able to provide spot minutes and soak up some garbage time reps in the process.
Jaylen is showing added maturity by volunteering to be a mentor for Fi. They don’t play the same position, but Brown knows the game and how to approach adding to his craft over time. Even though Jaylen is the one helping Kabengele, there’s a benefit for Brown as well. First of all, he admits in Jared’s article that he’s getting something out of the drills too. He gets some practice reps as a ball handler. But it goes beyond that. As the leader of the team and a focal point of the team’s culture, he’s practicing working with younger players. Something that most team leaders are looked to once they become veterans.
I’m sure this sort of thing happens to different levels with lots of different players. This probably isn’t even the first guy that Brown has taken under his wing. It is just nice to see a story highlighting it. If nothing else, I’m sure newly appointed head coach Joe Mazzulla appreciates the extra leadership that Brown and Tatum are taking on.