Brown: ‘No reaction’ to Kidd’s assertion he’s best Celtic

BOSTON — Dallas Mavericks coach Jason Kidd attempted to throw a stick of dynamite into the middle of the Celtics locker room Saturday by declaring — twice — that Jaylen Brown is Boston’s best player. But when Brown and Jayson Tatum were separately asked about it a short time later, ahead of Boston’s attempt to take a 2-0 lead in the NBA Finals on Sunday night, both made it clear they had no interest in letting Kidd’s mind games impact them.

“I don’t have no reaction,” Brown said.

Added Tatum: “This is a team sport. We wouldn’t be here if we didn’t have JB on our team, and we can say that for a lot of guys, right. We have all played a part in getting to where we’re at, and we understand that people try to drive a wedge between us. I guess it’s a smart thing to do or try to do.

“We’ve been in this position for many years of guys trying to divide us and say that one of us should be traded or one is better than the other. So it’s not our first time at the rodeo.”

It also isn’t Kidd’s. He has been a constant presence in the NBA since being drafted by the Mavericks 30 years ago, appearing in three Finals as a player — including winning the 2011 title with Dallas — and now in his first as an NBA head coach. But as he was asked a fairly innocuous question to end his news conference, about what makes guarding someone like Brown so challenging, Kidd took it as an opportunity to stir up some drama after the Celtics throttled his Mavericks in Game 1 on Thursday.

“Well, Jaylen is their best player,” Kidd said Saturday with a sly smile. “Just looking at what he does defensively. He picked up Luka full court. He got to the free throw line. He did everything, and that’s what your best player does.

“Just understanding he plays both sides, defense and offense, at a high rate. And he’s been doing that the whole playoffs. I mean, when you talk about the Eastern Conference MVP, and it seems like he has continued to pick up where he left off.”

The topic of whether Brown or Tatum is the better player has been a driver of sports talk radio and debate for years now, as the two star forwards have led Boston deep into the playoffs over and over again since being drafted third overall in 2016 and ’17, respectively.

This year marked the sixth time in eight years that Boston has made the Eastern Conference finals, and the second time in three it has reached the league’s championship round, with Tatum winning Eastern Conference finals MVP honors two years ago, and Brown claiming the award after Boston’s four-game sweep of the Indiana Pacers last month, beating Tatum out by a narrow 5-4 vote.

But after all of the ups and downs Boston has been through as a team — the Celtics have played more playoff games without winning a title over the past eight years than any team in NBA history over an eight-year span — neither Brown nor Tatum showed any interest in even acknowledging Kidd’s attempt to cause controversy between them, or within the Celtics.

“I’m not sure,” Brown said when asked why Kidd would go out of his way to try to drive a wedge between him and Tatum. “But we’ve been just extremely focused on what our roles and our jobs are. We have all had to sacrifice. Jayson has had to do that at the highest of levels, right, and I respect him and tip his cap for it.

“Right now, at this point, it’s whatever it takes to win, and we can’t let any outside interpretations try to get in between us.”

For his part, Tatum said accepting that things like this will come up over time is something he has grown accustomed to as part of his life in the NBA, and is something he now understands comes with the territory that his platform, and the success both he individually and the Celtics as a group have had, provides.

“I think, like I said, just over time, you learn how to deal with things,” Tatum said. “There was a point, right, in my career where things did affect me or would bother me that, you know, to hear people talk about me on TV. But you just have to come to a realization that, for one, don’t take it personal. People have a job to do. You have to respect that. They have to go on TV and give their analysis of, you know, things that they see and watch, and that’s fair. You understand what the media side has done for the game of basketball and how we have all benefited from that.

“Again, people wouldn’t talk about me if I wasn’t one of the best players. I’m not the only player that they have ever talked about, and I won’t be the last. So understanding that side of it.”

All of this overshadowed Boston’s dominance in Game 1, when the Celtics led by as many as 29 and put the game away again in the second half after Dallas managed to cut that lead to as little as eight midway through the third quarter.

Now, though, the goal for the Celtics is to carry that performance forward into Game 2.

“We just need to focus on the truth,” Celtics coach Joe Mazzulla said. “At the end of the day, nobody knows because they are not in the locker room. And so I think as long as we focus on the truth, we focus on the things that we talk about every day, we focus on the relationships that we build with each other, we focus on just that stuff.

“They can look at it however they want. At the end of the day, what goes on in our locker room, how we communicate with each other, how we build relationships with each other and how we treat each other on and off the floor, that’s the most important thing.”

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