Jaylen Brown has the athleticism to excel in the NBA. (John Hefti/USA Today Sports)
Jaylen Brown learned about NBA intensity from a name Celtics fans lusted after — Chicago Bulls All-Star Jimmy Butler.
Because Brown and Butler share a trainer, they worked out together before the draft. A workout turned into a game one of one-on-one. They planned to play three.
“We went tooth and nail at it. . . . I guess he thought it would be easy, and then somebody won the first game and then he wanted to keep going,” Brown told reporters in New York. “And so we kept going after that, then he won the second, then he won the third, then I won the fourth, and we ended up playing all the way to 21.”
Brown wouldn’t reveal who won, but he’ll have a chance to renew acquaintances with Butler and the rest of the NBA’s most versatile swingmen after being selected third overall by the Celtics in Thursday’s NBA draft.
“Boston is a great city full of culture, full of life, education, things that mean a lot to me,” Brown said. “I’m super excited. I cannot wait to get there and can’t wait to get everything started, can’t wait for the season to start, and I’m happy to be a part of the family.”
Brown, who played one season at California, is considered a different breed of basketball player. He plans on representing himself in contract negotiations, with input from Hall of Famer Isiah Thomas. He’s a chess player and very interested in the culture of Boston.
“Boston has a great history of education and some great universities like Harvard, MIT,” he said. “I’ve done my research, so we’ll see.”
As for transitioning to the NBA game, there’s a lot to like about Brown’s skills. Freakishly athletic and a hard worker, he hopes he’s ready to make the leap to the pros. He’s a skilled finisher on the break, which means that aspect of the NBA game should play to his strengths.
“The NBA is a faster pace, faster tempo, so it’s a lot of transition, and I feel like that’s where I excel, that’s where I thrive,” he said. “However, I do have to get a lot better. Decision-making has to get a lot better. But the NBA is a faster pace, a lot of versatility. Guys that can guard multiple positions are very valuable, and I think I add to that really well.”
Brown doesn’t personally know anyone on the Celtics, though he’s impressed with young coach Brad Stevens. He caught a Celtics game in person in 2007 when Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett were leading the C’s to a title.
“I don’t know really anybody on the team, but I do know that they’re a playoff team and they’re looking for somebody to come and add and not take away from what they’ve been doing, so that’s what I want to do,” he said.