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Jaylen Brown has earned respect and $300m deal

Jimmy Myers
Jaylen Brown has earned respect and $300m deal
Jaylen Brown in action against the Wizards. PHOTO: WIKIMEDIA, KEITH ALLISON

The deal is done. Jaylen Brown has got his fortune for playing a child’s game at the professional level. His new $304 million contract extension makes him the second highest paid player, (behind recently signed Anthony Davis of the Lakers) in the NBA — for the moment!!! To objectively assess the situation, we must go back to come forward.

Hours following the Celtics’ embarrassing 103-84 loss to the Miami Heat in game seven of their NBA Eastern Conference Championship series, critics were asking whether Brown is worth the maximum contract extension of $300 million that he was eligible to receive under the NBA Players Association’s collective bargaining agreement with the league.

Brown had a bad game, with eight turnovers. I am sure that he would be the first to admit that. His Celtics teammates (Derrick White being the exception) did not distinguish themselves. But much of the blame for the loss landed on Brown’s shoulders.

After rallying from a 3-0 deficit to force a seventh and deciding game on their home court, the Celtics were 48 minutes from writing a monumental and historic chapter in what could only be described as a roller-coaster season. In the 76 years of the NBA, no team had ever rallied from a 3-0 deficit to win a best-of-seven playoff series. The record was 150-0, now standing at 151-0.

I don’t know whether the thought of coming so close to a historical precedent or playing so poorly in the biggest game of this young Celtic team’s existence  to date drew the ire of so many. But Brown was the focal point of the discussion because of money. By being selected to the All-NBA second team, Brown earned the money coming to him. But the Celtics know that Jason Tatum is due for a $300 million-plus maximum contract extension deal after next season.

Simple math takes us to over $600 million for Brown and Tatum to remain in Celtics uniforms — the money to be dispersed over the next several years. When one considers the intended salary cap issues that will affect the overall makeup of this team,  the question becomes: Is Jaylen Brown’s contract essentially just a one-year deal? And if the Celtics don’t win an NBA title next season, does it make sense to pay $600 million to two players? 

The Celtics’ management has publicly stated that they want to keep Brown and Tatum. Brown should feel like he stands alongside Tatum and not behind him in the order of importance to this team. Brown, 26, and Tatum, 25, are among the top two-man combinations in the league. It is hard to even think of breaking up such a young duo unless Brown wants out of Boston. Now that he has decided to stay for the immediate future, he must be willing to accept the role the team assigns him.

I return to the dynamic duo of Larry Bird and Kevin McHale to make my point. McHale had a chance to leave the Celtics for the New York Knicks before the Celtics under the stewardship of Red Auerbach found a way to pay them both. The money was much less in the 1980s than today, but that previous situation is relevant regarding time and today’s pay scale.

There may come a time when it is feasible to trade Brown. But now is not the time. Seeing that the team has decided to bring back coach Joe Mazzulla for a second year, he should have his top two players for an entire training camp and regular season — a situation that he did not have last year due to the sudden suspension of former coach Ime Udoka.

Celtics fans also need to give the Brown-Tatum combo (or Tatum-Brown combo, if you prefer) at least one more season to put things together and make a run for championship banner No. 18. Brown is a tough, hard-nosed competitor who deserves his new deal and the respect he earned. Now the primary question is: Can he and Jason Tatum learn to share the basketball and lead this team  — together?

Brown now has generational wealth and very lofty aspirations. Through his “7uice Foundation,” he is quoted as saying: “I want to launch a project to bring Black Wall Street to Boston and help bridge the wealth gap.”