While you were celebrating LeBron’s exit from the Eastern Conference he’s dominated for close to a decade straight, the Celtics’ Jaylen Brown was stewing over the opportunity that had been taken off the board with James’ move to Los Angeles.
“To be honest, I wanted him to stay,” Brown, in Las Vegas watching some Summer League action, said of James’ decision to join the Lakers on a four-year deal. “I was kind of mad. I wanted to be the team to go through him, you know what I mean?
“I felt like we could have had it last year, but we fell a little bit short. But I applaud somebody doing what’s best for him.”
As noted by Brown, the Celtics had their chance to go through LeBron last season in an Eastern Conference Finals series that saw them blow both a 2-0 series lead and Game 7 on Garden parquet. The 33-year-old James proved to be too much for the undermanned Celtics, though, and led Cleveland to their fourth straight Finals appearance. In fact, by the end of the series, there was little that Brown, who played his best basketball as a Celtic in that series, could do to stop James.
No. 23 instead finished the seven-game East Finals war with 33.6 points, 9.0 rebounds, and 8.4 assists per game and straight-up refused to leave the floor when things got real for the Cavaliers in a must-win Game 6 and Game 7.
That, of course, eats at the supremely confident No. 3 overall pick from 2016.
But Brown also hates the fact that the Celtics are looked at as the East’s winner-by-default thanks to LBJ’s move West.
“I wanted him to stay in the East. I don’t like when people say, you know, now that LeBron’s gone, y’all are the favorite. You know, that irks me,” Brown admitted. “A lot of [Celtics teammates], we feel the same, because we feel like whether he was there or if he wasn’t there, we was coming out [of the Eastern Conference].”
Brown is likely on to something here, as a Celtic squad bolstered by the return of a healthy Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward would have been too much for LeBron James and an obviously weakened Cavalier squad to handle in a seven-game series.
Now, their only chance to go through James in the playoffs will have to come with the legacy-defining new chapter of an NBA Finals showdown between the Celtics and Lakers.
Then again, I’m not sure anybody would say no to that. Especially not Brown, clearly.