Shootaround (Aug. 7): Boston Celtics’ Jaylen Brown Ready To Lead More This Season

Shootaround (Aug. 7): Boston Celtics’ Jaylen Brown Ready To Lead More This Season News

Africa trip spurs Brown’s leadership quest — A trip to Africa with Basketball Without Borders served Boston Celtics swingman Jaylen Brown well. His ambition, just a little over a year into his NBA career, is robust. Brown wants to be a leader, both on and off the court. This life-changing trip could turn out to be even more motivation for Brown, writes Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe:

The 20-year-old Celtics renaissance man, who has aspirations of being one of the league’s trailblazers, is one of 24 players who participated in the second NBA Africa Game on Saturday in Johannesburg.

Brown is the youngest player on either roster, but the magnitude of making this journey is not lost on him. Brown views this as more than just an average trip afforded NBA players because of their status. He views this as a learning experience, an opportunity to explore a different culture, and to erase stereotypes or notions about one of the world’s most mysterious lands.

“It feels great. There’s a lot of perceptions of what Africa looks like or what it is, and it’s completely different from what I thought it would be,” Brown said. “It’s similar to back home and I feel at home. At first, when we first arrived, there’s buildings everywhere, there’s the big city, marketing, branding, everywhere. I felt like I was outside the city in Augusta, Georgia, or something rather than being across the world.

“But it’s a beautiful city, a beautiful country. I’m happy to be here.”

Brown scored 12 of his 15 points in the fourth quarter, leading Team World to a 108-97 victory over Team Africa.

Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

During the week, players toured the city and participated in various basketball skills camps with the kids of Johannesburg. The NBA realizes that Africa has untapped marketing and talent potential. It’s been overlooked for too long. It’s not some primitive land.

Brown said working with young people during these camps has been just as beneficial for him and the other players as it’s been for the youth. They see how badly these kids want to learn the game but they lack the resources and training sometimes taken for granted in the United States.

“They’ve helped me a lot, just how they approached their opportunity,” he said. “No matter what, they just come out and have a lot of energy, super excited, super locked in, with an eagerness to get better and learn the game. I have that same drive in me but they have it to a whole other level. I have an appreciation for the talent level. Some of these kids are really talented but they have less opportunity.

“The game of basketball presents so much and it’s so universal. It touches every corner and now they have an opportunity to show their game and show who they are.”

Brown takes pride in making an impact off the court. He organized a get-together for fellow NBA players under 21 who were too young to fully experience Las Vegas during NBA Summer League. Celtics teammate Jayson Tatum and a throng of other young standouts showed up to support Brown at a golf center.

This trip to Africa continues Brown’s quest to become more of a leader among his brethren, as well as in the community.

“I got this quote from Isaiah Thomas, ‘If I die, if I’m known as just a good basketball player, then I didn’t do my job, I failed as a human being,’ ” Brown said. “That says a lot. He lives by that and I kind of hold myself to the same standard. If you’re just remembered for being a good basketball player, I didn’t do enough while I was here.

“It’s my driving force, just using the game to make an impact on my community, spread light on a lot of different things. Athletes have a voice. [Making an impact] crosses my mind a lot. Being here [in Africa] changes your perspective on what’s going on [in the States]. People here are a lot more deprived and a lot more poor than in America but they don’t seem to be [deterred] by it. They seem more happy, in a sense. It just seemed interesting to see that.”
* * *

Opportunity knocks for Pacers’ Robinson III — A summer of upheaval in Indiana could prove to be beneficial for Glenn Robinson III. The Pacers’ homegrown forward has a pathway to a much more prominent role with the departure of both Paul George and CJ Miles. That’s what has shaped Robinson’s offseason regimen, as he works toward a new beginning with the franchise. Grant Afseth of Indiana Sports Coverage has more:

Indiana Pacers forward Glenn Robinson III is coming off of the best season of his NBA career but he is surely just getting started. With the departure of Paul George to the Oklahoma City Thunder, the starting small forward spot is certainly a possibility for Robinson III to earn at some point during the upcoming regular season. I decided to talk with him and his trainer (Joey Burton) to gain some insight on how they’ve been preparing for this opportunity.

Nate McMillan declared that Bojan Bogdanovic is likely going to be the starting small forward at the start of training camp. However, nothing is ever a guarantee and Glenn will have a chance to earn that role in training camp or at some point during the season. With that being said, I asked Glenn what he believes he can do to differentiate himself from the competition to earn that spot.

“Patience has been on my things but I think that just as hard as I work man, and being able to play both ends of the floor,” Robinson III said. “Not only just me but all of our guys can do that but I think that’s one thing that will help me, is playing both ends of the court, trying to mix it up, give some help on offense and defense.”

Confidence and patience are both key traits for a player that is in Glenn’s position. While Bogdanovic has proven himself as a scorer, he is limited as a defensive player and hasn’t managed to impact the game at a high level in key nuances such as facilitation, rebounding and defensive playmaking. These are all areas where Glenn could separate himself.

When going into the off-season, it’s important to have particular goals in mind as a player. I wanted to know what Glenn’s priority was for this summer and he told me that he wanted to improve his ball handling. His usage rate was just 12.8% last season and that is sure to go up by a significant margin considering the circumstances of the team.

“One of the biggest things was my ball handling this summer. Just being able to create for others, you know, help my teammates out a lot. I wasn’t in a lot of pick-and-roll positions in the past couple of years but that’s one of the biggest things that I’ve been working on this summer just like I said. Just setting myself up and putting my teammates in positions to score and to be able to win.”

Photo by Issac Baldizon/NBAE via Getty Images

With a greater offensive role, Glenn will receive more opportunity to drive the lane, run pick-and-rolls, and to attack through isolations. Joey told me that they’ve been working hard on improving his effectiveness in each of those areas. Not only that, but Glenn has been practicing his finishing against each specific situation that you would face in a real game.

“One thing we’ve been able to work on a lot is him just being more effective with the ball in his hands and to be more aggressive so we’ve been working on moves to get separation from the defender to get his shot off, the attack moves to get to the basket, to be able to finish so I’m hoping his usage rate goes up. Being a little bit more aggressive off the dribble and creating his own shot. Nothing too crazy with the iso game where he’s just getting the ball where he’s trying to get his bucket whatever way he can but really doing it within the fold of the offense and being able to be aggressive with the ball in his hands.”

“Also getting to the rim and finishing off of either foot with either hand so we’ve been doing a lot of one hand finishes and having that finish through contact so he can try and become a better finisher but also to get to the free throw line more than he’s done in the past and we worked on a lot of ball screens obviously that’s a big part of the NBA.”
* * *

Wolves’ Taylor set on keeping team, signing Wiggins to extension — Forget those rumors about massive change coming to the Minnesota Timberwolves. Owner Glen Taylor put those rumblings to rest in a weekend conversation with Sid Hartman of the Star Tribune, who also points out that keeping Andrew Wiggins in Minneapolis is a priority:

While Taylor can’t talk about other teams’ players — such as trade rumors about the Wolves’ possible interest in Cavaliers point guard Kyrie Irving — he can talk about his own. He made it clear he is going to sign guard/forward Andrew Wiggins in the near future to a five-year, $150 million contract, the highest deal any team could give him. And Wiggins is not available to anybody in a trade.

Taylor, who also owns the Star Tribune, said he now owns about 70 percent of the team. Two minority owners are selling their stock, but Taylor’s stock is not available for the foreseeable future.

“We have a couple of my limited [owners] that have indicated that they’re going to sell, and we have another limited [owner] that is going to buy them,” Taylor said. “I won’t be selling any of my stock. Whatever I have, I’m keeping.”

When asked if the rumors that the Wolves are worth $1 billion are true, Taylor — who paid $88.5 million for the club in 1994 — wouldn’t say.

“I don’t know,” he said. “If I put it up for sale, we’ll find out. I like the figure. But I’m not putting it up for sale, so I don’t know.”

Photo by Michael J. LeBrecht II/NBAE via Getty Images

Chinese exposure

Taylor also talked about the great television exposure the NBA gets in China, which will help the Wolves when they play the NBA champion Golden State Warriors in Shanghai and Shenzhen in early October.

“I think it will be a plus,” said Taylor said, who plans to take about 150 Wolves employees on the trip. “I think the exposure you get over there, exposure for the NBA, exposure to the Chinese people, they’re part of our being on the board of NBA China, part of our network of doing things there.

“The TV stations and the fans over in China … I mean, there are more people over there that follow the NBA than in the United States. We really have a big fan base. Then to bring a couple teams over there, I think we’re fortunate that Golden State is going, being the world champions, that’s a big plus, and we get to play them and attract a lot of people. It’s not only the attendance, which will be a large number of people, but people will watch it on TV and then we’ll do a lot of fun things over there.”

Taylor said the Timberwolves will do well financially on the trip, in part because of the Chinese television exposure.

Happy with Thibs

Taylor was happy with the job basketball boss Tom Thibodeau did last season. He said he wasn’t thrilled with the win-loss record (31-51), but he believes in Thibodeau’s vision.

“My expectations were that we would have won more games last year, but I brought him in here for the long run,” Taylor said. “We tried it with the young players, and it appears that we need more experience on the team to get where we want to get. [Thibodeau] is flexible and he’s trying his best to bring in the quality guys we need to get to the championship, so I’m happy.”

When it comes to his expectations for the upcoming season, Taylor isn’t settling on making the postseason for the first time in 13 years.

“Well, of course we have to get into the playoffs,” he said. “And where we get into … the playoffs is probably very important for us. To get into fourth place so you have home-court advantage would really be the super position.”
* * *

Wall a star with his eyes set on staying put — In a summer filled with headlines about NBA stars changing addresses, John Wall’s declaration that he plans on finishing his career in Washington didn’t garner nearly as much attention. But for some perspective on just how rare that sentiment is in today’s NBA, Jerry Brewer of the Washington Post offers some nuggets worth analyzing:

A crazy fact that illustrates the NBA’s extreme transience: When the 2017-18 season begins, John Wall will be the only player from the 2010 draft class to have played his entire career with one team. This summer, he became a retention unicorn when three other stalwart classmates left their original teams.

Gordon Hayward, the No. 9 pick in 2010, left Utah for Boston in free agency. Then Boston had to trade Avery Bradley, the No. 19 pick, to Detroit to make room for Hayward’s salary. And Paul George, the No. 10 pick, forced a trade from Indiana and wound up in Oklahoma City.

Seven years ago, Wall was selected No. 1 overall. Now he’s the only one.

In the class before Wall’s, Blake Griffin, Stephen Curry and DeMar DeRozan are the only one-team wonders from the 2009 draft. In the class after Wall’s, the numbers are better: Kyrie Irving, Tristan Thompson, Jonas Valanciunas, Kemba Walker, Klay Thompson, Kawhi Leonard and Kenneth Faried are still with the team that chose or acquired them on draft night. But even that group faces retention challenges ranging from Irving’s recent trade demand in Cleveland to Valanciunas and Faried being the subjects of persistent trade rumors.

If you’re still wondering why Wall signing a supermax extension matters, let’s add another dimension of rarity. Since San Antonio drafted David Robinson with the top pick 30 years ago, can you name how many No. 1 picks have played at least their first 10 seasons with their original team? There are just two: Allen Iverson and Tim Duncan.

Because he signed a four-year, $170 million extension recently, Wall has committed to the Wizards for the next five seasons, and he has an option for a sixth year. It’s almost certain he will be in Washington through his 12th NBA season, when he will be 31. Considering that the option year on his new contract is worth $46.9 million, it’s a safe bet that he will be around for Year 13, too.

And beyond, Wall says with conviction.

“This is the team I want to be with for the rest of my career, so hopefully we can get that done,” the four-time all-star said Friday. “And I’m not going to stop until I get a jersey retired in here and a banner here for a championship. So let’s keep it going.”

Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

When next season begins, Nowitzki will join Kobe Bryant as the only NBA players to play 20 seasons for the same team. Nowitzki has been through it all with the Dallas Mavericks: establishing credibility, sustaining success, fighting through perceived plateaus, reaching the pinnacle with a 2011 NBA title and turning into the wise old veteran as the team rebuilds.

It takes a special person to have the focus, perspective and desire to see a franchise through so many phases. It also takes a special talent to maintain untradeable status and irreplaceable value to his team for so long.

Even if Wall completes his third contract here, he would have seven more seasons before he could reach Dirk/Kobe territory. As much as he and the Wizards talked loyalty Friday, I’m not sure either side expects their relationship to last that long.

But in the current NBA landscape, Wall already has done something incredible. Stars rarely sign a third contract without at least flirting with free agency. It wasn’t a surprise when Wall jumped to sign a max contract in 2013 because that $80 million pact was his first huge payday. But this time? Even though the offer was more than double his last contract, Wall is still bucking convention.
* * *

SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Back to school season means the LeBron James sneakerpalooza is on again … Dirk Nowitzki, the “King of understatement,” speaks … ICYMI, the “wow” factor surrounding the Milwaukee Bucks’ new practice facility is real … Stanley Johnson’s campaign for more shots this season in Detroit got a huge boost over the weekend in Toronto … Charlotte’s search for a third point guard has gone global …