BRIGHTON — Celtics forward Jaylen Brown expects to come off the bench when he makes his return to the floor Thursday night against the New York Knicks.
Brown, who missed Boston’s last three games due to a lower back bruise, practiced Tuesday and Wednesday “without any issues,” coach Brad Stevens said Wednesday. The 22-year-old had been dealing with back spasms and soreness after suffering a scary fall against the Dallas Mavericks almost two weeks ago. He was officially removed from the injury report Wednesday after practice.
Even with no limitations, however, Brown anticipates remaining bumped from the starting lineup. During his three-game absence, the Celtics boasted the league’s best offensive rating (124.6) and second-best net rating (19.2) — largely due to the insertion of Marcus Morris and Marcus Smart into the starting five. If Brown does come off the bench Thursday, it will be the first regular-season game he has done so since his rookie year.
But the change doesn’t appear to be a demotion in his eyes.
“People make it a bigger deal than it really it is,” Brown said. “At the end of the day, it’s basketball. [Gordon] Hayward came off the bench the other day and had 30 points. That’s a mindset thing, that’s a choice. Coming out and having the right mindset, coming out and playing the right basketball, it will take care of itself.”
Stevens acknowledged maintaining a fluctuating starting lineup isn’t easy for those affected — something Smart also mentioned last week — but he said he tries to be empathetic while also de-emphasizing the importance of starting.
“The reality is it’s not easy to bounce back and forth, in and out of a lineup,” Stevens said. “It’s not easy to play less minutes than you’re accustomed to. At the same time, your responsibility is to 15 guys and the organization as a whole.”
The players have seemingly adopted a similar mindset, as the team continues to develop their identity moving forward.
“However we can keep this going, playing the right way and continuing to win, I’m 100 percent for,” Brown said.