“I think this year, we have a little more experience’: At All-Star Weekend, Celtics’ stars still have Finals hopes at top of mind

"The ultimate goal for me and Jayson has always been to win games," Celtics star Jaylen Brown said at NBA All-Star Media Day.

Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum believe they've learned from last season's NBA Finals loss and hope to make it back there this year. Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

NBA All-Star Weekend is all about celebrating the best in the league.

Holding the best record in the league entering the break, the Celtics are front and center in that regard. They’re just one of five teams to have two All-Stars play on Sunday’s game and Joe Mazzulla will coach Team Giannis.

Celtics All-Stars Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown are appreciating the celebrations this weekend and the break from the regular season grind. But they realize this weekend is just that – a break.

Tatum said that he doesn’t want to take weekends like this “for granted.” In fact, he called this All-Star Weekend his favorite to date because he’ll wear his signature shoes for the first time when he takes the court for Sunday’s All-Star Game.


But his mind remains focused on winning a title. Tatum and the Celtics fell short of that goal last year as the young star had a disappointing Finals appearance en route to losing to the Warriors.

During All-Star Media Day, Tatum acknowledged how that defeat has motivated him this season, in which he’s scoring 30.6 points per game to make him an MVP candidate.

“Just learn from it. That was a championship team,” Tatum said when asked what he took away from last year’s Finals loss. “We give them their credit. They won fair and square. They beat us and they were the better team at the time. But there’s a lot we’ve taken and learned from it that we’ve applied to this season.”

Tatum’s work for this season began well before the regular season tipped off in October. Not only did he focus on changing his game though, he said that he changed his diet as well.

Tatum said that he didn’t make any drastic changes to his diet, saying “everything’s just healthier options.” But he’s noticed a positive difference that he hopes will pay off come playoff time.

“Diet was at the top of that list and even focusing more on my routine,” Tatum said on the things he focused on over the offseason. “I was very durable last year and throughout the course of my career. I hate to miss games. I always like to play. You know, there’s a lot of talk about how many minutes I play and things like that.


“But I feel like the changes we made this offseason and even during this season – lifting more, all those type of things – are preparing me to play heavy minutes so it’s not a shock when we get to the playoffs.”

Brown was asked about how the Celtics tried to overcome the experience difference in the Finals last season when they went up against a Warriors squad that had already won three titles together. He acknowledged that they didn’t.

“We lost,” Brown said.

Brown believes that won’t be the case this season, sounding confident that the Celtics will make it back to the big stage.

“I think this year, we have a little more experience,” Brown said. “So, that will carry over into the Finals. We’ve got some big additions between Malcolm Brogdon and Blake Griffin that’s been great for our locker room. Overall, I think experience is the best teacher. So, we’ll learn from our mistakes.”

Brown’s in Utah for his second All-Star appearance over his seven-year career, which is two fewer than Tatum has in his six-year career. Brown’s stellar season, in which he’s scored 26.5 points per game, has made some wonder how he would do as the top option on a team.


Brown seems perfectly fine in his current role though, saying that he just wants to win above all else.

“It takes sacrifice,” Brown said. “On my part, there’s definitely a lot of opportunities where you can be a guy. But the ultimate goal for me and Jayson has always been to win games.

“So, when you see team dynamics, there’s nothing wrong with doing your job on a team. Throughout my career, I’ve learned that’s been needed of me to play. I think that’s why the success has been able to happen, to be humble and be yourself. … There’s no problem being a great team guy and winning in Boston.”

The Celtics’ path to the Finals arguably became easier over the last couple of weeks with the Nets trading Kyrie Irving to the Dallas Mavericks and shipping Kevin Durant to the Phoenix Suns. Brown was a part of rumors on a possible trade for the latter dating back to the offseason.

However, Brown didn’t buy much into those rumors as the Celtics affirmed to him there wasn’t legitimacy behind them.

“[Celtics president of basketball operations] Brad [Stevens] was the first to reach out to me. Brad reached out to me to tell me it was just rumors or just wanted to clear up whatever it was going around,” Brown said. “I really didn’t pay too much attention to it, so I didn’t really know what he was talking about.”

Tatum also seems happy with where the team is at, too. When he was asked who his favorite NBA players are, Tatum said “the guys on my team” before listing off all the Celtics’ regular rotation players.


“Have we gotten better from last year? Yeah, a lot better,” Tatum said in response to another question.

Tatum’s also holding off making some offseason commitments, such as the FIBA World Cup in August, as he hopes to begin his summer by celebrating.

“I haven’t decided yet if I want to play [in the tournament] this upcoming summer,” Tatum said. “Hopefully, I’m fresh off a championship and just trying to enjoy my summer.”


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