Trust is a tenuous thing — easily destroyed and hard to rebuild.
The Celtics front office needs to move quickly to re-establish good faith between the organization and All-Star Jaylen Brown, or they may be scrambling through a rebuild of another kind.
Scal educates Jones & Mego about the NBA
Brown gave two separate interviews, conducted by the New York Times and The Ringer over the past three months, and they just happened to publish days apart. His answers to direct questions about his future with the Celtics were murky — noncommittal at best. He detailed his confusion and frustration at hearing his name in trade rumors twice for superstar Kevin Durant, just weeks and then months after helping the Celtics to the NBA Finals.
Through Ime Udoka’s off-court scandal and suspension, Brad Stevens learned the hard way that rumors take on a life of their own. But if the Celtics truly didn’t intend to trade Brown last summer or just before the 2023 deadline, as both he and owner Wyc Grousbeck insisted to Brown privately, they could do better to let the rest of the league know.
Put simply, those rumors could have been quashed the first time last summer if Stevens shouted from the rooftops, “Jaylen Brown is a cornerstone of this team. He is untouchable.”
Brown has financial incentive to stay with Boston. The league has structured the supermax deal in a way to keep stars tied to their teams for more cash, and Brown is a strong contender for an All-NBA team, which would qualify him for such a deal with Celtics when he becomes a free agent in 2024.
But what’s most alarming about his recently published comments is the lack of trust he seems to have in Boston’s front office, a distrust that took seed watching Isaiah Thomas get traded during his own rookie year.
Elite duos power the league’s best teams, and right now, Boston has the rare gift of two star players ascending to their prime, both playing the NBA’s most important positions. If the Celtics lose Brown because they shopped him around too much, or failed to adequately communicate to both him and the rest of the league that they’re not — it will be one of the biggest blunders in the organization’s history.
The irony of the situation is that now, if Stevens decided to abandon his home-grown duo’s future and preemptively trade Brown after this season, it’s hard to see the Celtics getting a star of his quality back. Top-20 players like Brown often turn into role players and future picks — likely slamming the window closed on Boston’s current window for a championship.
So what does a recommitment to Brown mean? Turn the Fleetwood Mac off — no more Rumours. Treat this star like other teams treat their All-Stars, and let him in the room again for big decisions…like the hiring and firing of a coach. Keep lines of communication open and transparent. Brown’s playing for a supermax contract now, and that money should keep Boston an attractive place to play.
It’s possible this fretting over a few interviews is an overreaction, and Brown fully expects to be with Boston for years to come. But he hasn’t said as much.