Jaylen Brown knows who Dee Brown is. And the rookie couldn’t take Celtics jersey No. 7 without paying homage to the former slam dunk champion.
So during his photo shoot in the NBA Rookie Transition program, Jaylen Brown posed for a picture soaring for a dunk with his left forearm covering his eyes, similar to the dunk Dee Brown pulled off 25 years ago.
He sounded almost offended when asked if he had heard of Dee Brown before changing his uniform number from 9 — which he wore in summer league — to 7. Fans who have saved their old Dee Brown jerseys can now pull them out and wear them again.
No. 7 wasn’t available when Jaylen Brown was drafted and then began summer league. It was occupied by Jared Sullinger, who was still officially a Celtic as a restricted free agent. During summer league, the Celtics rescinded Sullinger’s rights and he signed with the Toronto Raptors, making the number available.
“I had limited options to start with because a lot of [the Celtics’] numbers are retired,” Brown said. “No. 7 has always been my favorite number. It’s a spiritual number. It’s a divine number I’ve always liked. So when it became available to me, it was the number I wanted to wear.
“And with the Dee Brown thing, it was Brown 7, so I had to do a tribute while I was here to pay homage,” said Brown, who was born 5½ years after the 1991 dunk contest.
“That’s why I did the pose, because I remember Dee Brown in the dunk contest when he covered his eyes and he played with the Celtics and he could shoot the long ball. I remember who he was.”
Jaylen flourished during the Las Vegas portion of the summer league and said he had no plans to rest in the 10-week period between its conclusion and the beginning of training camp. He went to Los Angeles to work out with his personal trainer, and the Celtics sent team officials there to monitor the workouts. Brown also said he’s talked with Celtics coach Brad Stevens about the best opportunity to get playing time.
“I wouldn’t say I’m tired. Tired is like a state of mind in my opinion,” he said. “I’m maybe fatigued a little bit. I just have to keep my body rested and recovered. Everything I’ve been doing is preparing for the season. I haven’t seen anything like an 82-game season, so I have to be as physically prepared as possible, get my body ready.”
He also engaged in workouts with rugged Celtics swingman Marcus Smart. Brown came away impressed with his new teammate.
“It was really good,” Brown said. “He showed me some things that I need to know and now I’m a little bit ahead. He was a great mentor to me while I was out there. He’s spent two years in the league. He told me the real and we practiced and trained at the pace of an NBA practice and it was good. I benefited from it.”
The league’s players’ association conducts the Rookie Transition program to prepare newcomers for the on-court and off-court challenges of the NBA. Among the speakers this year in New York were Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Allan Houston, and Shane Battier.
“I’m not sure who put the program together but it’s really fantastic,” Brown said. “The group speakers that came to talk to us, Chris Herren, Derek Anderson, Courtney Alexander. I found a lot of resources that I’ve had to help me out and pull me aside and show me the right way. Everything here has been great.”
Former NBA standout Purvis Short is the director of the NBPA’s Player Programs and hopes the Rookie Transition Program has a profound effect on incoming players.
“I think this year’s class has been great,” Short said. “I think it’s one of the better classes we’ve had in a while. There are many ways we try to get messages across, having them speak to their peers, current players, retired players, guys who have gone through what they’re going to go through.”
Team USA has changed its ways
It’s been 12 years since the United States squad embarrassed itself by losing three games in the Athens Olympics. That forced USA Basketball to reassess its approach. Since then, chairman Jerry Colangelo has whipped the program into pristine condition, making playing for the team a privilege, not a right, and instituting the USA Select Team that gives younger players hopes of someday playing for the national team.
The changes for USA Basketball haven’t gone unnoticed around the world. USA Basketball continues to widen the gap. Perhaps the gap is not at the 1992 Dream Team level, but the difference between the Americans and the rest of the world is considerable, especially when countries such as Argentina (which won gold in 2004), Brazil, and France continue to run out the same players as 12 years ago.
“First of all, because they have way more size, talent, athleticism,” Argentina swingman Manu Ginobili said. “I feel for five or six years that they, I don’t know if they didn’t care enough or they didn’t respect the rest of us, but now they got past that stretch.
“Good for them. They are amazing, and considering they are missing six [of their best] players, they are impressive. I think they are by far the favorites to win it [in Rio], but for sure they stretched [the gap] between them and the rest of the world.”
Ginobili was part of that 2004 Argentina team and is proud of the accomplishment.
“I think we left a big impact,” he said. “We get a whole different treatment and respect from the rest of the world and that is something that is important, too. We competed and started to play in a way which I’m proud of being part of. Sometimes we’re not going to win; maybe we don’t make it to the next round. There are some things that are more important, you have to compete the way you should compete.”
Luis Scola flourished in the Olympics against Team USA 12 years ago and eventually joined the NBA. He still plays for Argentina.
“I’m 36, I know I’m closer to the end than the beginning,” he said. “Manu and those guys have been playing with me for 22 years. But I also like playing with the young guys. We are starting to create that bond we once had when we won the gold medal. Maybe I can be some sort of transition from that team that was very special and moving on to the next phase trying to recreate what we had.”
Scola, like Ginobili, acknowledged that overcoming an engaged Team USA is an arduous challenge.
“Obviously the US is ahead of everybody in that regard,” he said. “They have a lot of good players. Serbia has a lot of good players. Croatia always has good players. Spain has a lot of good players. Brazil has a lot of good players. I believe the NBA is really enjoying players from other countries. With basketball growing, we’re going to see more and more players.
“I believe the US will still have a lot more good players. But you can only put 12 on the team and you can only put five on the court. So eventually I think there’s going to be five or 12 really good players from another country. And we’re going to have a time where it’s not going to be like this.”
Before Colangelo took over, Team USA had experienced decline because the country’s best players began turning down international invitations. And players who perhaps weren’t qualified or prepared for international play began taking roster spots and taking opponents for granted.
“I think it’s pretty much up to the US,” Scola said. “If the US takes this seriously and really puts in the work and their minds and their bodies, it’s going to be very, very hard to beat them. They have so many good players. They have so many athletes. The difference between those guys and everybody else is very, very big.”
One man’s revised national roster
Team USA is undefeated in international play since 2004, using NBA stars to restore order and dominance. And it appears that this Olympic tournament field in Rio is so weak that the United States will coast again. So we thought to ourselves, what if a team of college players and incoming NBA players were created to compete in the tournament? Who would play on that team? And would they medal? The Globe put together a 12-man team to compete in these Games:
Brandon Ingram — The second overall pick provides versatility with his size and skill set, like a mini-Kevin Durant. Ingram flourished in his lone season at Duke and would be a cinch for this team. His outside shooting and ability to stretch the floor would be pivotal against European competition.
Jaylen Brown — Perhaps the most explosive player in the draft, the Celtics rookie would give Team USA a scoring small forward with an edge. Of course, Brown would struggle attacking the basket as he did in the Pac-12, where he picked up a plethora of charging calls. He would have to temper those drives.
Kris Dunn — The best point guard would be big and strong enough to get to the paint at will and a strong enough distributor to run the offense with precision. Dunn sparkled in his brief appearance in the summer league and could be a Rookie of the Year candidate.
Denzel Valentine — The old man of the group as a four-year senior at Michigan State, Valentine would stabilize the team and play three or perhaps four positions. His guile, skill, and versatility would be essential. Valentine could also play point and move Dunn to shooting guard in certain lineups.
Marquese Chriss — Raw and freakishly athletic, Chriss would make his share of eye-popping plays but would also be the focus of the officials. He fouled out of 15 games during his lone season at the University of Washington, so his minutes would likely be limited. But he could run the floor and finish with Dunn leading the break.
Brice Johnson — He was underappreciated at North Carolina and should make an impact with the Clippers this season. Like Chriss, Johnson can run the floor, play strong defense at the rim, and provide rebounding. He may lose out physically to bigger centers, but his athleticism would compensate.
Malcolm Brogdon — With a solid skill set, Brogdon could defend at shooting guard, small forward, and even against smaller power forwards. He played in a defensive-first system at Virginia and would be an Andre Iguodala-type addition.
Markelle Fultz — The youngster of the group, the University of Washington incoming freshman would likely play scant minutes at point guard but would be on the squad just for the experience. Fultz is likely a top-five pick in the 2017 draft should he declare, and would give the team depth at point guard.
Melo Trimble — The high-scoring Maryland product could be the combo guard Team USA needs and would be an even more valuable commodity if he were to improve his 3-point shooting. His presence would allow versatile backcourt combinations with Dunn and Valentine.
Grayson Allen — Allen has serious skills and could play small forward. His ability to shoot the long ball would keep defenses honest, and he is also deceptively athletic.
Deyonta Davis — The future Memphis Grizzlies post player would provide size and toughness. Davis didn’t get a lot of touches at Michigan State because he played with more experienced players, but he can score in the post and defend.
Taurean Prince — The future Atlanta Hawk is known for his versatility and defensive prowess. Prince could defend different frontcourt positions and score. He also shot a decent 36.5 percent from the 3-point line while at Baylor. He, like Brodgon, provides leadership and a stabilizing force for a younger team.
Coach, Brad Stevens — He already knows how to deal with college players successfully given his time at Butler, and he has proven that he gets the best out of his players. It would be a natural fit for someone who wants to be part of the Team USA coaching staff.
Buddy Hield was not eligible for the team. He is a member of the Bahamian national team. No. 1 overall pick Ben Simmons attended Montverde Academy in Florida but is Australian.
Jerry Colangelo made an astute point about potential college candidates. “I’m not sure who college players are anymore,” he said. “When they come out of high school, they’re in college for a year, attend classes for a few months, and then they’re pros. It’s kind of a gray area. I do think we’ll be bringing up more and more young players. With the new format after Rio, for sure.”
Russell Westbrook committed to the Thunder with a contract extension, but the deal has an opt-out for the All-Star guard after the 2017-18 season. So that gives Oklahoma City two years to compile a championship-caliber team to encourage Westbrook to stay long term. Westbrook confirmed what Kevin Durant revealed during the Team USA media session in Rio, that the two haven’t spoken since Durant committed to Golden State. Westbrook said that he and Durant did not even have a conversation when Durant made the decision. Instead, Westbrook found out like the rest of the basketball world, reading Durant’s post on the Players’ Tribune website. Both intimated they would eventually talk and settle matters. They meet as opponents for the first time on Nov. 3 at Golden State. Durant will make his return to Oklahoma City on Feb. 11 . . . The Olympics bring to the forefront players who are not in the NBA and probably should be. One of those is Brazilian forward Augusto Lima, who looked impressive in scoring 10 points with nine rebounds in Brazil’s 66-65 win over Spain on Tuesday. Lima plays for Real Madrid after three years with CB Murcia. He entered the 2013 NBA Draft as a 21-year-old but was not selected and headed overseas. Lima is committed to Real Madrid for two more seasons. The fact that some international talent is simply overlooked is fascinating considering the extensive international scouting NBA teams conduct . . .
View this post on Instagram
There isn't a place on earth that these dawgs haven't carried me. I don't care how crusty my toes are or how bad my toenails get. These feet are my MVP. They do all the heavy lifting. Take some time out and treat your feet to a pedicure. Fellas!!! Pedicures aren't just for women. Believe that! #vineyardruns
Ray Allen told the Hartford Courant that he is considering a comeback and that the 41-year-old sharpshooter never officially retired after his contract expired with the Heat after the 2013-14 season. Allen has remained in remarkable condition and appears ready to join a contender. He even mentioned the Celtics as a possibility, but for that to happen, the club would have to cut or trade a player with a guaranteed contract. Allen also would have to mend his damaged relationship with the organization. Team ownership wasn’t exactly thrilled that Allen took $3 million per season to play with Miami when the Celtics offered $6 million. Allen wasn’t thrilled that the club waited until his contract expired to begin negotiations on a new deal when it could have extended him during the season. Allen also frowned upon the signing of Jason Terry, which ended up being a failure for the Celtics. Team president Danny Ainge said he believed Terry and Allen could play together, but Allen viewed the move as the Celtics signing his younger and cheaper replacement.
The men’s basketball tournament at the Olympics features a record 46 current NBA players. Obviously, the US team leads the way with 12 NBAers, while the San Antonio Spurs feature a league-high five players in the Games. Here’s a breakdown: