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'He Won't Forget This': Are Celtics Fumbling Relationship with Jaylen Brown?

A Sherrod BlakelyContributor IJuly 27, 2022

Adam Glanzman/Getty Images

When news broke Monday that the Boston Celtics had been willing to offer Jaylen Brown to the Brooklyn Nets in a trade for Kevin Durant, it didn't appear to sit well with the 25-year-old. His tweet shortly after the reports came out indicated as much.

Jaylen Brown @FCHWPO

Smh

Brown reportedly wants to remain with the Celtics, according to Jared Weiss of The Athletic, but how much damage have they done? A number of NBA officials who spoke with Bleacher Report believe the Celtics should be worried. Even if the Celtics had made a cursory call—which NBA teams do all the time when a top-flight player like Durant becomes available—league insiders believe this flirtation with Durant could easily come back to bite them.

While trade rumors are nothing new to Brown—he's been mentioned in unsubstantiated trade rumors for Jimmy Butler, Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, Ben Simmons and Anthony Davis—this round of trade talks involving him is unlike past conversations.

Why?

Brown just completed his sixth NBA season, all of which have seen the Celtics make the playoffs. He has been part of three trips to the Eastern Conference Finals or beyond. In his most recent trip, he and the Celtics advanced to the NBA Finals pushing the Golden State Warriors to six games.

And Boston just swept the Durant-led Nets in the first round of the playoffs. Brown came away from that series—and the rest of the playoffs—looking like a true star.

"Jaylen won't let this affect his play, but he won't forget this, either," one Eastern Conference scout said. "The kind of season he had, the team had…I know this is a business and he knows it's a business, but hearing your name in trade rumors, even if it's Kevin Durant in the deal, can't feel good considering how he played against KD and how the Celtics did against the Nets."

Another league executive said he can understand why Brown seeing his name brought up in trade rumors this time around—even for a player like Durant—is a different kind of feeling than previous times he was mentioned as being on the trade block.

"When you give your blood, sweat and tears, as I know he has to that team, and you don't feel you're getting that same love back, it'll definitely make you look different or look twice at your front office and how they do things," said a Western Conference coach.

Jaylen Brown. (Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images)

It isn't unprecedented for a team that came up just short of winning an NBA title to make dramatic changes the following year. But the Celtics were a different kind of title contender, in large part because they are led by a pair of players who are 25 or younger.

Brad Stevens, Boston's president of basketball operations, was careful in adding to the mix of his roster without touching his core group. Earlier in July, the Celtics acquired Malcolm Brogdan via trade from Indiana and signed Danilo Gallinari after he cleared waivers, addressing two of their more glaring weaknesses from last season—bench scoring and a perimeter stretch big.

Still, even if the Celtics did nothing other than throw out some names to stir up conversation with Brooklyn, they have more to be worried about than Brown's feelings. Their success last season was heavily fueled by the behind-the-scenes togetherness that allowed them to stand strong during turbulent times, of which there were plenty.

The Celtics have gradually built themselves into a potential title contender for years to come. Because of their youthful core, the Celtics don't have to make major changes to their roster to remain an elite NBA team.

A Durant deal would fundamentally change Boston's core dynamic. A second Eastern Conference scout pointed to the impact Durant would have on Tatum, who has blossomed into a top-tier superstar himself.

"Can those two co-exist?" the scout said. "Both need the ball in their hands to be impactful. Both are long, long-range shooters, can put the ball on the floor and score in a lot of ways. But can they play nice with each other? I have no idea."

So, why take something that works and try something that might not work?

Because winning an NBA title is about taking chances in making deals that are good for many but don’t necessarily create a clear pathway toward a championship.

But that ultimate prize, an NBA title, has to be the end result if you are the Boston Celtics.

Because anything short of that while moving on from Brown will make this potential deal for Durant an absolute disaster.

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