Brown: 'No reaction' to Kidd saying Celtic are better

BOSTON — Dallas Mavericks coach Jason Kidd tried to throw a stick of dynamite into the middle of the Boston Celtics locker room Saturday after announcing (twice) that Boston's best player was Jaylen Brown. But when Brown and Jayson Tatum were asked separately before Boston took a 2-0 lead in Sunday night's NBA Finals, both made it clear they weren't willing to let Kidd's mind games get to them.

“I had no reaction,” Brown said.

Tatum added: “It's a team sport. We wouldn't be here if we didn't have JP on our team, and we can say that about a lot of guys, right? We've all had a part to play in. We understand where we're at and people are trying to drive a wedge between us.

“We've been in this position for years and guys try to split us up and say one of us has to be traded or one is better than the other. So this isn't our first time in rodeo.”

Neither is the kit. He has been a constant presence in the NBA since being drafted by the Mavericks 30 years ago, appearing in three Finals as a player (including a 2011 title win with Dallas) and now the first NBA head coach. But Kidd stirred up some drama after the Celtics blew out his Mavericks in Game 1 on Thursday when asked a fairly innocuous question to end his press conference about how challenging it is to guard someone like Brown.

“Well, Jaylen's their best player,” Kidd said Saturday with a wry smile. “He was watching what he was doing defensively. He was following Luca all over the court. He got to the free throw line. He did everything, and that's what your best player does.

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“I understand that he's playing at a high rate on both the defensive and offensive ends. And he's been doing that throughout the playoffs. I mean, when you're talking about the Eastern Conference MVP, it's like he picked up where he left off. Let it go.”

Whether Brown or Tatum is the better player has been a driver of sports radio discussions and debates for years, as the two star forwards have repeatedly led Boston far since being selected third overall in 2016 and 2017, respectively.

Reaching the Eastern Conference Finals for the sixth time in eight years this year and the league championship round for the second time in three years, Tatum earned Eastern Conference Finals MVP honors two years ago after Boston's four-game sweep of the Indiana Pacers last month, Tatum was voted 5-4. Brown claimed the award after being narrowly defeated.

But after all the ups and downs Boston has gone as a team (the Celtics have gone more playoff games over the last eight years without winning a title than any team in NBA history), neither Brown nor Tatum showed up. Interest in agreeing to Kidd's attempt to cause controversy between them or within the Celtics.

“I'm not sure,” Brown said when asked why Kidd was trying to drive a wedge between him and Tatum. “But we've been very focused on what our roles and jobs are. We've all had to make sacrifices. Jason has had to do it at a very high level, and, well, I respect that, and I take that down.

“Now, at this point, whatever it takes to win, we can't allow any outside interpretation to come between us.”

For his part, accepting that things like this will come with time is something he's gotten used to as part of his career in the NBA, and he now understands that it's brought him both the territory and the success his platform — both him individually and as a team for the Celtics — has had.

“Like I said, over time you learn to deal with things,” Tatum said. “There was one thing in my life, it's true, things that affected me or bothered me, you know, you hear people talk about me on television. But on the one hand, you have to realize that I didn't. Take that. Personally, people have to respect that.

“Again, people wouldn't talk about me if I wasn't one of the best players. I'm not the only player they talked about and I won't be the last. So I understand that side of it.”

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All of that overshadowed Boston's dominance in Game 1, when the Celtics blew a 29-point lead and put the game away again in the second half, before Dallas managed to cut that lead to eight midway through the third quarter.

However, the goal for the Celtics now is to carry that performance into Game 2.

“We just have to focus on the truth,” Celtics coach Joe Mazzulla said. “At the end of the day, nobody knows because they're not in the locker room. And I think as long as we focus on the things we talk about every day, as long as we focus on the truth. When we focus on the relationships we build with each other, that's all we focus on.”

“You can look at it any way you want. At the end of the day, what happens in our locker room, how we communicate with each other, how we build relationships with each other and how we treat each other off the court, that's the most important”.

Eden Hayes

"Wannabe gamer. Subtly charming beer buff. General pop culture trailblazer. Incurable thinker. Certified analyst."

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