Boston Celtics

Boston Celtics wing Jaylen Brown isn’t even entertaining the idea of his team not making it to the NBA Finals.

Celtics legend Paul Pierce actually found a way to successfully up Brown’s guarantee, even, by saying that the Celtics are capable of winning a championship next season. If they learn how to sacrifice for the greater good of the team, anyway.

“When you have that type of talent, they’re going to have to learn to sacrifice,” Pierce, who won a title with the C’s in 2008 and went to another NBA Finals in 2010, said at an event in Boston last week. “Not everybody is going to be able to accomplish maybe the individual goals they want to accomplish, but the team’s greater goal should be all that matters.”

This is something Pierce learned in his first year of Boston’s 21st century Big Three with Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen.

It was in that saw season that Pierce’s statistical achievements take a dip while the C’s as a team made a 42-win improvement from the year before and won their first title in 22 years. In fact, each member of that three-headed monster let their stats dip to truly adopt that ‘ubuntu’ mentality that became the rallying cry of Green 17; Pierce went from 25 to 19.6 points per game (and he averaged almost five fewer attempts per game), Garnett went from 22.4 to 18.8 points per game and also took fewer shots and played fewer minutes per game, and Allen went from averaging 26.4 points and 21 shots per game in Seattle down to 17.4 points and 13.5 shots per night in his first season with the C’s.

“You have to sacrifice if you are truly committed to trying to win a championship,” Pierce noted. “They’re going to win a lot of games, but unless they sacrifice — because we know they’re going to be better than probably what their numbers show — if they can sacrifice they’ll win a championship this year. Because the talent is definitely there.”

This is something that the Celtics are going to have to learn early, as Kyrie Irving is coming off what may be the most complete season of his NBA career, while Gordon Hayward signed with the Celtics after setting career-highs from a production and scoring standpoint with the Utah Jazz in 2016-17. Brown and Jayson Tatum, meanwhile, got their first taste of being an offensive focal point during last year’s run to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals.

“They have the talent, they have the coaching, what else is left?” Pierce said. “They’ve been to the Eastern Conference finals twice in a row. The next step is getting to the Finals and eventually winning a championship.”

Even with an across-the-board sacrifice from the 2019 Celtics, it will take something major to dethrone the Golden State Warriors, who have won back-to-back NBA titles and posted a 32-6 playoff record over that stretch.