Celtics' Jaylen Brown wanted LeBron James to stay in the East

NBA.com Global on Jul 14, 2018 06:59 AM
Jaylen Brown wanted LeBron James to stay in the East
NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 24: Jaylen Brown #7 of the Boston Celtics drives to the basket against the New York Knicks on February 24, 2018 at Madison Square Garden in New York, New York. (Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)

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LeBron James is no longer the player other Eastern Conference teams must beat to reach The Finals. His move to the Los Angeles Lakers cleared the way for perhaps several teams to have a shot at a Finals berth -- something that wasn't possible the last eight seasons in the East as LeBron's teams made The Finals every time in that span.

The Boston Celtics pushed James' 2017-18 team, the Cleveland Cavaliers, to the brink of elimination in the East finals. However, James and Co. squeezed by Boston in Game 7, toppling a Celtics squad that did not have Kyrie Irving or Gordon Hayward. One player on the court for that Game 7 and Boston's playoff run, forward Jaylen Brown, said he was hoping James would opt to stay in the East for a few more years.

Ultimately, though, James opted to sign with the Lakers in free agency. That left Brown a little disappointed he won't be seeing James in a playoff setting until at least The Finals stage. Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald caught up with Brown in Las Vegas during NBA Summer League, and the Celtics' youngster shared his thoughts on LeBron's move and more:

The basketball cognoscenti has largely awarded the 2019 Eastern Conference title to the Celts now that James has left for the Lakers, and that bothers Brown.

"To be honest, I wanted him to stay,” Brown said. “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. He did what’s best for him and his situation.

“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. A lot of us, 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 was among a Celtics contingent sitting courtside that included Irving, Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge and others. Ainge was quick to point out recently that he views the LeBron-less Eastern Conference as a formidable bunch and, for the most part, Brown and Co. believe that as well.

By the same token, the Celtics also know that if they have a fully healthy roster, they can make a serious run at their first Finals berth since 2010, writes Bulpett.

Part of the courtside discussion with Irving was about the immediate future and what the Celtics can accomplish in this coming season. It’s clear they don’t like to speak too boldly about it, but there’s also no doubt the Celts believe they can make a good run at winning everything.

“It’s hard when you put expectations on things,” Brown said. “We just want to be the best team that we can be. Right now, that’s what we think. We want to continue to get better. We don’t know what the final roster is. Right now we’re just trying to be the best version of ourselves and bring that to the table.

“We’ve got a lot of great talent on this team with a great coach, so, you know, we’re thinking we’re trying to raise a banner, but we’ve got to make sure that we take care of ourselves, be healthy and for the long haul we’ve got to start thinking now rather than start thinking later.”

Hayward and Irving are still working their way back from their respective injuries. Ainge said Wednesday that the duo "should be playing full-court basketball by the time they get back to Boston sometime in August.”

Irving missed the final 15 games of the 2017-18 season and the entire playoffs to repair his left knee. Hayward missed the season after suffering a gruesome leg injury in the Celtics' season-opening game.

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