Celtics Notes: Finals, Porzingis, Brown, Holiday, Stevens

The Celtics have lost four Eastern Conference finals and one NBA Finals since drafting Jaylen Brown in 2016, but the veteran wing believes this year’s club is capable of breaking through and being the one that wins a championship, as he told reporters after the C’s secured their spot in the Finals with a win over Indiana on Monday.

“We feel like we’re a different team than we were last year and the year before that,” Brown said, according to Tim Bontemps of ESPN. “I know everybody wants to continue to kind of pigeonhole us to what was happening in the past but we’ve had a different team every single year, different coaches, we’ve had like three coaches in the last five years. And still people want to make it seem like it’s the same, it’s the same, it’s the same.

“Time has gone by, experience has been gained and I think we are ready to put our best foot forward.”

This year’s version of the Celtics was certainly the best regular season team in recent franchise history, winning 64 games and registering the third-best net rating in NBA history (+11.7). Boston’s critics remain skeptical of the team’s playoff résumé not only due to its past losses but also because the team had a relatively clean path to the NBA Finals. Each of the three opponents the Celtics have beaten so far in the postseason were missing their best player (Jimmy Butler, Donovan Mitchell, and Tyrese Haliburton) for part or all of the series.

Still, the C’s have handily beaten the opponents in front of them, performing well in clutch situations and recording a league-best +10.8 net rating in the playoffs (Dallas’ net rating, by comparison, is +3.5).

“We feel comfortable in any type of game,” Derrick White said on Monday, per Steve Buckley of The Athletic. “We feel like we have the answers for anything teams throw at us, no matter what the scenario is.”

Here’s more on the Celtics as they prepare for a lengthy layoff before the Finals tip off on June 6:

  • Will Kristaps Porzingis be ready to return from his right calf injury by the time the Finals begin next Thursday? That’s the hope, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic, but it’s not a lock. “There’s definitely optimism. There are still some hurdles, I’m told, that he has to clear before he can play in Game 1 of the Finals,” Charania said on FanDuel’s Run it Back show (Twitter video link). “… Porzingis has to make sure he’s 100% healthy. This could, of course, lead to worse injuries if you do end up getting back on the floor sooner than you’re supposed to. But there’s obviously hope the next week-and-a-half he’s able to ramp up and get ready.”
  • Brown and teammate Jrue Holiday each earned a contract bonus for making the NBA Finals, as Bobby Marks of ESPN notes (Twitter links). Brown has now maxed out his incentives this season, earning a total of $3,321,428 (on top of his $28,508,929 base salary) for a series of individual and team achievements, while Holiday earned an extra $297,600 as a result of the Celtics winning the East. Holiday can further increase his total bonus money for this season if Boston wins the title.
  • Brown, who made it a goal this season to be an All-Defensive player, admitted he was more disappointed to miss out on that honor than he was not to make an All-NBA team, according to Jared Weiss of The Athletic. But Brown added that he’s not dwelling on either outcome and knows his own value as a “versatile two-way wing,” which his teammates also recognize. “We ask a lot of him. (On Monday), he started out guarding (Andrew) Nembhard, then he switched up to (Pascal) Siakam, he probably was on (Myles) Turner,” Al Horford said. “He was on different people all over. That versatility is what makes us so tough as a team.” As we detailed in an earlier story, Brown was named the MVP of the Eastern Conference finals.
  • Brad Stevens‘ aggressive 2023 offseason – which included trading away longtime franchise pillar Marcus Smart in a deal for Porzingis and then making a second blockbuster deal for Holiday – has paid major dividends to this point, writes Brian Robb of MassLive.com. As Robb observes, the roster was constructed to withstand the absence of a starter like Porzingis, with Holiday and Horford among the players taking on larger offensive roles to make up for that loss.
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