Shaking out my notebook after the Celtics’ 3-1 road trip that was a success in the standings but also showed that they are certainly not invincible …
▪ Something is off with Jaylen Brown. Although he and Kristaps Porzingis have shown flashes of a developing two-man game, Brown seems to be having trouble adjusting to the presence of a third elite scorer.
When time passes without Brown getting a shot, there’s often an “it’s my turn” feel to the offense. And that is usually not going to end well.
A career-low 50 percent of Brown’s field goals have been assisted, and his 54.4 true shooting percentage is his lowest since his rookie season. Brown was held below 15 points in four games last season, and he has already equaled that mark this year, with 69 games left.
And it should be even more concerning that his decreased offensive output might be affecting his defensive effort. The Celtics’ defense has been 6.7 points per 100 possessions worse with Brown on the court, by far the worst differential among regular rotation players. And he is gathering 6.9 percent of all available rebounds, a career low.
Brown started 3 for 4 from the field in Monday’s overtime loss to the Hornets, but he went just 2 for 13 over the rest of the game and collected his fifth foul midway through the third quarter.
It’s early enough in the season that a couple of good games can flip these numbers, but the Celtics cannot win a title this season without an engaged and motivated Brown.
▪ NBA players are creatures of habit, so it’s been surprising to see Jayson Tatum slightly alter his pregame shootaround routine. During the last two years, Tatum usually waited for his teammates to clear the court before beginning his own shooting workout that was followed by a fairly physical one-on-one session against player development coach Mike Moser.
But Moser left the Celtics to join Ime Udoka’s coaching staff in Houston. Tatum still waits for his solo shooting workout, which usually includes some work with assistant Sam Cassell, but there is no one-on-one session afterward. I assumed it was a calculated decision to save energy for games, but Tatum made it sound more like a matter of personnel.
“Mike’s gone, and nobody really wants to guard me,” he said. “I tried to get Amile [Jefferson] to guard me, but since I got stronger than him, he don’t want to play me like we did when we were in college. That’s probably the real reason. I don’t have nobody to play defense. Steve [Tchiengang] is coaching in Maine now, so I ain’t got no volunteers.”
As Tatum finished this thought, Jefferson, the first-year player development coach who was Tatum’s Duke teammate and remains one of his closest friends, walked by.
‘Yo, ‘Mile,’ ” Tatum said. “They want you to guard me in shootaround from now on, because that’s what I did last year.”
Well, I never said the media wanted this to happen. I was just curious about the shift. Anyway, Tatum then explained last season’s setup to Jefferson.
“They want me to do that?” Jefferson said.
“They’re going to be asking you a lot more questions, then,” Jefferson said. “A lot more.”
▪ In the time flies department: Gordon Hayward has now played for the Hornets longer than he played for the Celtics.
▪ The postgame locker-room meal is a staple of NBA road life. It’s usually either brought in from a local restaurant or handled by a catering company at the arena. But there are exceptions.
On Friday, for example, the Celtics faced the Raptors in Toronto, the hometown of forward Oshae Brissett. So Brissett enlisted his grandmother.
“I’m always looking for home-cooked meals,” Brissett said. “And that’s how my grandmother gets down, really. Any family event, she’s the one who coordinates the food. I just told her we need a whole bunch, and she knows that we’re all athletes so we need a lot, especially after a game.”
Brissett’s grandmother is Jamaican, and Friday’s cuisine leaned heavily on that influence. She prepared jerk chicken, curry goat, oxtail, rice and peas, and macaroni salad, among other delicacies.
“Oh, the guys loved it,” Brissett said. “They’re ready to come back in January.”
▪ The Celtics’ timing generally has been excellent on two-for-one opportunities so far. A two-for-one occurs when a team gets a shot up with more than 24 seconds left at the end of a quarter, ensuring that it will get one more shot before time expires.
There is a bit of a science to the process. A team does not want to shoot so quickly that it gives the opponent a two-for-one chance, but it also does not want to shoot so late that its second chance is just a desperation heave.
Watch the Celtics closely and you’ll see that the 31-second mark is their sweet spot. Most often, if they’re unable to get a good shot around that point, they’ll abandon the pursuit and simply get the best shot they can.
Payton Pritchard orchestrated a perfect two-for-one at the end of the first quarter Monday, when he pulled up and drained a deep 3-pointer with 31 seconds left before converting another just before the buzzer.
Brown’s attempt with 32 seconds left in overtime, with the score tied, did not work out as well.