As the Celtics’ representative in the NBA’s player union and an astute man who spent his offseason traveling the world and observing different cultures, Jaylen Brown has kept a close watch on the league’s controversy with China.
Rockets general manager Daryl Morey’s since-deleted tweet supporting the Hong Kong protesters has set off a firestorm of brushback from the Chinese government and businesses that invest in the NBA, and has shifted the focus to the players, many of whom have refrained from comment because they are either uneducated about the topic or it may result in a financial setback.
Meanwhile, Morey hasn’t commented since and commissioner Adam Silver has spent the past two weeks trying to mend the NBA’s relationship with China and also defend league employees’ freedom of speech.
LeBron James drew controversy this past week by saying Morey was “misinformed” and that he could have waited until the Lakers and Nets left China following their exhibition games before making a statement that could have potentially threatened their safety.
Brown spent time in China with Team USA and also visited Egypt in his summer sojourn. He is a thinker, someone who doesn’t spout words strictly on emotion. He also understands the cultural differences between where he has visited and where he is from.
“It’s tough because you don’t want to neglect someone’s First Amendment rights,” said Brown. “You don’t want to neglect somebody’s freedom of speech, but at the same time you want to be considerate of people all over the world. Just because we do something a certain way here doesn’t mean that it’s OK somewhere else, so you have to be appropriate to what you say because other people might take offense to it, even if you don’t mean offense.”
There has been criticism of the NBA and its players since Morey’s tweet. There have been accusations that players are vocal when it comes to human rights in the United States but not in China when money and endorsement contracts could be at stake.
Honestly, the NBA just can’t wait for the regular season to start Tuesday and for this issue to blow over.
“Even if you disagree with it, people should have more understanding, be more respectful,” Brown said. “It’s definitely a tough situation. I don’t want to comment on it because I don’t want to say the wrong thing. I definitely think players should be able to speak freely on educated topics that they’ve informed themselves on and also make calculated, precise answers so it can’t be spun in the direction they don’t want it to be spun. You see the best of us make those mistakes and that’s why we have great media teams to make sure everything is on track.”
It appears that many NBA players, including those who have visited China, had little idea about the human rights issues with Hong Kong but have been asked to speak in support when they are unsure of the issues. Understandably, many players have refused to offer an opinion.
“I 100 percent think players should stick to their guns if they are informed on it, they should speak on it,” Brown said. “This world is a big place and it’s complicated. Not everybody has the same opinions on things. Even if you disagree, have an understanding of a time and place to say things.
“Personally, when I was in Egypt and I was welcomed to be there, I was a guest of their country, I’m being considerate of their social norms. I’m not at home. That was my particular situation.
“I don’t want people drawing similarities and analogies to other people. Definitely want to be considerate and understanding of everything. Who am I to make my opinion off somebody else’s social norms, way of life? It’s not up to me, but I don’t want that to be an analogy to what’s going on right now. I think people should be more considerate with what they say.”
Time and education may offer the best solution. But for now, the China controversy serves as a learning experience for the league.
“It’s a gray line. People should have an understanding for one another,” Brown said. “This world is a big place, it’s complicated, but we all need each other, so have an understanding of one another and work to make change over time.”
Celtics have fans at TNT network
The Celtics have been one of the quieter teams in the league this preseason. Considering last season’s embarrassing ending and all the personnel changes, they have been understandably just concentrating on moving forward.
Yet, they are projected to finish third in the Eastern Conference. The Celtics finished 4-0 in the preseason with Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, and Gordon Hayward looking considerably more confident than last year.
TNT’s Reggie Miller and Stan Van Gundy, a new addition this season, had nothing but compliments for this rebuilt club that features Kemba Walker, Enes Kanter, and Carsen Edwards.
Van Gundy, known for his brutal honesty, said it was apparent last year’s team just did not get along.
“The one thing I really noticed last year with that team every time their comments after the game or between games — how unhappy everybody was on that team last year was really astounding,” he said. “There were always people just unhappy, unhappy with their role, unhappy with the way their teammates played, unhappy with each other. That was an unhappy team.”
Could there be addition by subtraction? Van Gundy said the departures of Kyrie Irving, Al Horford, and Marcus Morris could make for more defined responsibilities.
“They don’t have maybe quite as many people to play and I think that’s going to help them in a lot of ways,” Van Gundy said. “I think their perimeter is going to be outstanding. Kemba is not only really good; he’s not a load management guy. He played 82 games last year. He plays all the time every year. He loves to play. I think his teammates are going to love playing with him. They’re going to miss Al Horford and they’re going to miss Aron Baynes, but they’ve got some talent and they’re going into a year with lower expectations and all those guys get bigger roles.”
A consensus has been that if the Celtics are going to compete with the Bucks and 76ers, they’re going to need standout seasons from Tatum and Brown.
“Tatum going back to having a bigger role. Jaylen Brown, all those guys and I think that’s going to make them excited,” Van Gundy said. “I think that’s going to make them play well and I don’t put too much on the preseason, but I like the way they’ve played in the preseason. They’ve looked good and their defense has been good. I thought [Kanter] made really good defensive strides in the playoffs last year with Portland when he was in that position.
“I’m not going to say he was great defensively, but he was a lot better than he had been. If he can just do that with Brad [Stevens’s] coaching, I think they’ll be OK defensively. I’m with Reg; they’re the No. 3 team in the East going in. I think if everything falls together they can contend with those other two teams and push them a little bit.”
Miller said the key is having a bounce-back season from Hayward.
“How quickly can Jaylen and Tatum [make an impact]? It was a disappointing season last year, let’s be frank, especially coming off what they did the previous year and the injury to Hayward,” Miller said. “Can these guys rebound? Obviously losing Kyrie but getting Kemba — I think Kemba is going to be fantastic in their system in that building, wearing that green jersey is going to be great for Kemba.
“I love Kanter, I’ve always loved Kanter. What he does offensively can help them, but he’s got to play a little bit of defense, I know that’s not in his DNA, to help them out. But you got Robert Williams possibly as that defensive player off the bench. To me, Brown, Tatum, Marcus Smart, I projected them as the No. 3, possibly 4 team in the Eastern Conference. I have Milwaukee as No. 1, having the best record in the East, and then Philly and Boston, Indiana and Miami. It depends on what those young players can do. Can Hayward return to form?”
Beilein has hands full in Cleveland
Former Michigan and West Virginia coach John Beilein has apparently taken on a total reclamation project in Cleveland. The Celtics stomped on the Cavaliers in two preseason games by a combined margin of 63 points, with the second win coming as Boston left seven regular players at home.
The Cavaliers are a team filled with veterans on expiring contracts, coupled with rookies and young players trying to make an impact. The Cavaliers could pursue two maximum free agents next summer when Tristan Thompson, Brandon Knight, Jordan Clarkson, John Henson, and Matthew Dellavedova all come off the books.
But until then, they are expected to be the worst team in the league. Beilein, 66, had the itch to coach in the NBA after considering the Pistons job before they hired Dwane Casey.
Beilein has a tough task because his roster is so strangely constructed with essentially two lottery point guards — Collin Sexton and Darius Garland – and another first-round pick in combo guard Kevin Porter Jr.
Sitting on the other side of the bench is Kevin Love, 31, who competed for championships just a few years ago and is now being asked to play Papa Bear in the rebuild.
Beilein, meanwhile, has dealt with so many nagging injuries that he hasn’t been able to field a full team in the preseason. And he’s also trying to get accustomed to the NBA game — the speed, the shorter shot clock, the additional eight minutes, the defensive three-second calls, plus the increased travel and game schedule.
“We eat like all day long, so many meals it’s like eat after the game and then there’s a meal on the plane, so I’m going to continue to exercise a lot,” he joked. “I think that it is being ready to embrace a sudden change, like an injury all over again, move on from another game. The limited time to practice where basically you’d have 30 days to practice turned into eight days of practice to get ready for your first game. What do you speed up? If you blow right through then you never have a foundation. That’s a balancing act for me right now.”
When he was considering the Pistons job, Beilein had a conversation with Celtics coach Brad Stevens about making the transition from college. Stevens told him his first season in 2012-13 was frantic, but he eventually grew comfortable and loved the new challenge.
“He said in his first year it was a bit of a blur — just style of the NBA, the pace, the game after game after game,” Beilein said. “Just the speed, the shot clock, the number of games, all those things. But now that he was a few years in, he said I’m just having a blast right now because I understand the rhythm now.”
There’s been an uneven success rate for college coaches coming to the NBA, beginning with John Calipari and Rick Pitino. Coaches such as Lon Kruger, Mike Montgomery, Fred Hoiberg, Tim Floyd, and Leonard Hamilton were unsuccessful in their jumps.
“That’s what I have to do, I have to get a rhythm about how this all sort of works,” Beilein said. “That’s an easier thing to do. We’ve just got to find it. How do we improve at the fastest rate without wearing anybody out? How do we get ourselves healthy and not play guys that will never get healthy if you don’t give them rest?
“The college game was so good to me. I never complain about one second there, but there’s times in life where you say let’s try something different. I’m still doing what I love to do, there’s just some different things involved with it.”
The team and staff visited owner Dan Gilbert at his Detroit-area home. Gilbert is recovering from a stroke suffered in late May. Beilein said Gilbert was able to meet some of the newer players and offer encouragement. Cleveland will played in remodeled and renamed Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse, and it features a revamped concourse and also special ticket plans that allow diehard fans who were used to LeBron James and his buddies making championship runs to watch a rebuilding team against the league’s more attractive teams.
Bradley Beal’s two-year, $72 million contract extension essentially takes him off the trade market — for now — and means the Wizards are investing in today and not tomorrow. With John Wall likely out for the season and having one of the league’s most unattractive contracts — $170 million over the next four seasons — the Wizards could have potentially traded Beal for young players and draft picks and completely started over. Beal was Washington’s most attractive asset, but now he is the central figure in their rebuilding plan. Wizards owner Ted Leonsis maintained he wanted to re-sign Beal despite conventional thinking telling him to move the All-Star guard. Despite Ian Mahinmi, C.J. Miles, and Davis Bertans accounting for $30 million in contracts coming off the books next summer, the Wizards still won’t receive much cap relief. That means the Wizards are going to have to draft well. They already have two prospects — Troy Brown and Rui Hachimura — but they aren’t expected to compete for the playoffs until Wall returns next season. Washington invested in rising center Thomas Bryant, who assumed the starting role last season. The Beal signing shows loyalty, but the backcourt duo of Wall and Beal may have seen better days . . . Guard Buddy Hield wants a long-term extension from the Kings and isn’t afraid to say so. He said he’s ready to make a commitment to the Kings and pointed out that Sacramento isn’t an attractive free agent destination. Hield has turned into a plus shooter and capable offensive player the past two years following a rocky start after being drafted by New Orleans. He averaged 20.7 points per game and shot nearly 43 percent from the 3-point line last season, but the Kings could be hesitant to offer max money. Hield turns 27 in December despite entering just his fourth NBA season, so he’ll be at least 30 at the end of an extension. The Kings are on the verge of being a playoff team with De’Aaron Fox, Harry Giles, and Marvin Bagley. The question is whether Hield is on the verge of stardom or is peaking in his mid-20s. Hield realizes that this could be a career-defining contract and has been vocal about his desire to get it done. If he doesn’t sign by Monday, Hield will be a restricted free agent next summer.