After starting off slow last season, the Boston Celtics went on an impressive run to the NBA Finals. They took down the Brooklyn Nets, Milwaukee Bucks, and Miami Heat en route to their first Finals appearance since 2010 and the first of Jayson Tatum’s and Jaylen Brown’s tenure in Boston.
However, the run was cut just short of their ultimate goal, as they lost to the Golden State Warriors in six games. Since then, Tatum has commented on how “miserable” he was after the loss, and Marcus Smart even admitted to having trouble sleeping as he couldn’t stop thinking about it.
Now that training camp is here, the Celtics have made their goal clear - win a championship. During a media session at training camp, Brown said that the players and coaching staff are setting high standards for the season ahead.
“Just trying to set a standard. From Day 1, Joe set a standard, all our guys are setting a standard. Taking care of the ball, getting to our spots, playing the right way. Just setting a standard, an expectations level that we have to be accountable for every single day.”
Prior to last season, Brown had been to three Eastern Conference Finals but fell short in each of them. Last year, he and the Celtics were finally able to break that streak, reaching their first Finals together. But now, the 25-year-old wants more.
He and Tatum are the stars of the team, and with that comes a lot of responsibility. Brown said that he plans on stepping up as a leader even more this season as Boston attempts to navigate the difficult path in front of them.
“I plan on being a little bit more vocal, a little bit more aggressive, and holding myself accountable more. As the responsibility grows, leadership comes with it. Those are steps that we’re all taking individually and as a group.”
Having guys like Al Horford and Marcus Smart on the team helped, but last year was the first time that Tatum and Brown were the sole clear-cut stars on the team. In the seasons before that, players like Kemba Walker, Gordon Hayward, and Kyrie Irving were still around on max contracts, but last year, Tatum and Brown stood alone at the head of the ship.
Last season didn’t quite start as well as the team had hoped, but Brown said that the team is using that learning process they went through to improve this year.
“For sure. It started last year, we were still figuring a lot of things out. I think we know how we want to play, so we just follow that lead, build off of last year, and hold ourselves accountable to be better where we need to be better at.”
On January 22 last season, over halfway through the season, the Celtics were still 23-24 and sat at 10th in the Eastern Conference. Their incredible second half of the season turned things around in a major way, but now, they have to build off that success and avoid a slow start to this season.
Brown isn’t the only player ready to start the season off right, though. The Celtics’ latest addition, Malcolm Brogdon, has expressed his desire to win in Boston and, during a media scrum on Wednesday, September 28, stated that this Celtics squad is the best team he’s ever been a part of.
“This is probably the most talented team I’ve played with. This is a similar team to when I played with the Bucks my third year in Milwaukee. But here, these guys are a little bit more far along in terms of stars. Being ready to shine on the highest level than we were in Milwaukee. So, it’s probably the most talented team I’ve played with.”
Brogdon has found himself on both ends of a playoff series against the Celtics with Milwaukee. His 2018 Bucks lost to the Celtics in the first round, but his 2019 Bucks, the team he referenced in his response, took down Boston in the second round before ultimately losing to Kawhi Leonard and the Toronto Raptors in the Eastern Conference Finals.
Now, he’ll head into the season with a Celtics team that has high expectations. On September 27, Horford even admitted that Boston will have a target on their backs this year.
“Yeah, I don’t know if it’s an advantage, honestly. To your point, there is a target. There are people kind of hunting for us. That’s the way that it is. For us, we’re not hanging on any merits. We understand that we have to start back from zero and get this going again and get to playing the right way. But is there a target, absolutely. And teams are going to play us even more different, but we expect that.”
Last season, the Celtics started off with middling expectations and ended the year as the impressive underdogs who made an unforeseen run to the Finals. This year, they’re starting out with lots of eyes on them and championship aspirations.
And with the recent events surrounding the team, it will be up to the players and coaches to power through and live up to those lofty expectations.