Cal Basketball: Kevin Garnett's Intensity is Just What Jaylen Brown Needs

Jeff Faraudo

Jaylen Brown was a rookie for the Boston Celtics, sitting on the bench during a game, when he got the kind of message he could not ignore.

It came from former Celtics star Kevin Garnett.

“I was at the end of the bench with my head down, and he sent a voice message through my strength coach over the phone like, ‘You better pick your mother(expletive) head up,‘” Brown told ESPN’s Ros Gold-Onwude in an interview last week. “He was cursing me out. He was like, ‘You’ve got to carry yourself a certain way.’ So he told me to pick my head up and fix my body language, right the (expletive) now.”

Brown, in his fourth NBA season out of Cal, looks up to Garnett, a member of the most recent Celtics’ team to win a championship, back in 2008.

And Brown hopes to someday develop the kind of consistent intensity that typified Garnett’s play during his 21-year career. Garnett is set to enter the Naismith Hall of Fame along with the late Kobe Bryant and Tim Duncan in a sparkling 2020 class whose induction has been postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“(He’s) somebody I’m chasing here in Boston, he was the last person to win a championship,” Brown said. “That’s something I would like to do while I’m here with the Celtics. I’m definitely inspired by Kevin Garnett.

“I think we’re totally two different people, we play two different positions, but I would like to model my approach after his, and hopefully we will down the road be looked at as similar.”

*** Here's a video clip from Brown's interview with Gold-Onwude, the one-time Stanford player.

According to Brown, Garnett’s well-documented ferocity has not subsided since his retirement. Brown related a story about when former Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas lost his sister to a car accident during the 2017 playoffs.

“He spoke so much life into our team,” said Brown, who intentionally left out the profanities Garnett wove into the conversation. “It was probably the most OG message you will ever hear in your entire life. It was dope.

“I remember him saying, ‘There’s two ways you can go. Either you can go backward or go forward. I feel everybody’s emotions. Channel it out there and hit them in the mouth.’ ”

The Celtics, trailing the Chicago Bulls 2-0 in the opening-round series, stormed back to win four straight and advance to the Eastern Conference semifinals.

Garnett averaged 17.8 points over his career, and produced 20.4 points and 10.5 rebounds per game in the 2008 playoffs to help spark the Celtics’ championship. He led the NBA in rebounding four times, was the league’s MVP in 2004 and was named to 15 all-star games.

Brown, who played just one season for Cal before becoming the No. 3 overall pick in the 2016 NBA draft, was enjoying his best professional season when the coronavirus pandemic shut things down in March. As the season prepares to reopen, Brown is averaging 20.4 points, 6.4 rebounds, 2.2 assists and 1.1 steals - all career bests.

He may never be Kevin Garnett, but Boston recognizes Brown’s development toward stardom. In October of last year, the Celtics signed him to a four-year contract extension that kicks in next season and is worth $107 million.

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Follow Jeff Faraudo of Cal Sports Report on Twitter: @jefffaraudo

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