Nets forward Bruce Brown is hardly known for his trash talk, and the Boston native has certainly never been the target of vitriol from opposing fan bases. But in the afterglow of his team’s play-in tournament win over the Cavaliers Tuesday night, Brown took a bit of a shot at the Celtics’ interior defense now that Robert Williams is sidelined with a knee injury.
“I mean, we can’t let [Jayson] Tatum get 50,” Brown said. “We’ve got to be physical with them. Now they don’t have Robert Williams so they have less of a presence in the paint. We can attack Al Horford and [Daniel] Theis. Them not having Rob Williams is huge.”
Veteran Nets superstar Kevin Durant wasn’t exactly pleased with those comments and tried to throw water on them when he took the podium moments later. But there is no edit button at press conferences, and Brown’s words, while honest and rather mild, quickly made their way to Boston as the Celtics prepared for Game 1 of this opening-round playoff series.
The Celtics, for their part, have sounded somewhere between slightly annoyed and unaffected by the apparent disrespect.
“He said what he said,” Theis said. “For us, it’s more we show it on the court. If he thinks the way he thinks, we’re going to prove him wrong.”
Bruce Brown on how the Nets can slow the Celtics down in the first round:— Nets Videos (@SNYNets) April 13, 2022
"We can't let Tatum get 50. We've got to be physical with them. Now they don't have Robert Williams, so they have less of a presence in the paint. We can attack Al Horford and [Daniel] Theis" pic.twitter.com/4mQrtp7T4b
Jaylen Brown was asked how the Celtics would react.
“You don’t,” he said. “You respond with action. Just get ready to go on Sunday and that’s it.”
Celtics coach Ime Udoka pointed out that Theis and Horford are both high-level defenders. No, they cannot soar as high as Williams can. But they do not provide free passes, either.
“And we have layers to our defense,” Udoka said. “So it’s not like we’re getting blown by and Rob is protecting. We still have Marcus [Smart], Jaylen, Jayson and everybody else in between.
“We know how he scores and how he attacks in a lot of drop situations. Well, we can take that away by how we want to guard. And so they think it’s attack time because Rob’s out? Obviously we played quite a few games without him now and have done good enough beating some good teams.”
Progress is seen
There remains no return date set for Williams, but Udoka said that the big man, who underwent surgery on his torn left meniscus two weeks ago, continues to make progress.
“He’s getting on the court, not contact, but he’s getting shots up,” Udoka said. “Obviously, weight, strengthening, agility, anything like that. It’s low level, but he’s ramping it up day-by-day a little bit more and feeling good about it.”
Williams is expected to miss 4-6 weeks.
He’s so excited
Jaylen Brown missed last season’s first-round series against the Nets, which the Celtics lost in five games, because of a wrist injury. He said it was difficult to watch last year, but he is eager to have a new chance against the same team.
“It’s exciting,” Brown said. “I’ve had a little bit of trouble sleeping. So I’m just trying to calm myself down.
“I’m ready to go, I’m excited. It’s playoff time. It’s the best time of the year. This is what you work for.
“So ultimately, going out there and just breathing and being yourself is going to be key, because I know it’s going to be a lot of energy in the Garden. There’s going to be a lot of energy in the arena.
“Sometimes the more calm, relaxed player is the one who gets the advantage. So just trying to stay balanced as much as possible, but I’m definitely excited. You could tell by the smile on my face, right?”
Nets point guard Ben Simmons could return as early as Game 4, according to the Athletic. Simmons has not played since last season’s playoffs, when he was still a member of the 76ers. He was traded to Brooklyn in February and has been battling back soreness in recent months.
On Thursday, Udoka was asked how much the Celtics had started preparing for the possibility of facing Simmons.
“None yet,” he said.