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Jaylen Brown admits he couldn’t stand Marcus Smart early in Celtics career


MEMPHIS — Jaylen Brown said it plainly this time months removed from the trade. Not sarcastically either. Reflecting on his relationship with Marcus Smart, which he alluded to having its ups-and-downs in the past, Brown admitted he couldn’t stand Smart when he first arrived in Boston in the 2016 draft.

“I love him now,” Brown said when asked by CelticsBlog/CLNS Media about their relationship on Sunday. “It be like that sometimes. As you grow and mature as young men, you learns things about people, you learn about why people are the way they are, the stuff that goes on behind closed doors. Overall, if you get to learn people a lot more in this world, you can understand the perspective somebody might be speaking from.”

Brown didn’t mention why, referencing a plethora of reasons, you name it, why they got off to the wrong footing early in their careers. The comments came hours before the Celtics and Grizzlies’ first meeting since the stunning June trade that sent Smart to Memphis in a three-team trade for Kristaps Porziņģis after the initial deal with Washington and the Clippers fell apart that included Malcolm Brogdon instead. Brown called Smart last night where his Grizzlies faced the Spurs in the front end of a back-to-back.

Smart didn’t play and won’t on Sunday, injuring his left foot and ankle on Tuesday after landing on Austin Reaves’ foot playing against the Lakers. The Grizzlies, who started 2-9, ruled out Smart for 3-5 weeks, a crushing blow to a Memphis team awaiting Ja Morant’s return from suspension in December. Seeing Smart, a perennial winner and career-long teammate, lose in Memphis shocked Jayson Tatum when he tuned into their games.

“It’s been tough watching Memphis play and see him on a different team,” Tatum said. “It still looks a little funny.”

Tatum smiled when he heard Brown’s admission: oh s***.

“You’ve gotta learn to love Smart,” Tatum told CLNS/CelticsBlog. “Different guy, but at his core, he means well. If you spend enough time with him, you’ll learn and see that. Our relationship started to grow year-after-year, six seasons with him, started spending a lot of time with him on-and-off the court. Got to know his family, his wife, so just a lot of great memories.”

Brown, Tatum and numerous teammates attended Smart’s wedding in Los Angeles over the summer following the trade, as did Celtics head coach and president Joe Mazzulla and Brad Stevens shortly after the trade. Smart spoke to CLNS Media in the aftermath, saying the trade caught him completely off guard after Boston apparently told him he was good. He acknowledged that he expected to be moved eventually though. It wouldn’t be the Jays.

Smart also, unprompted, stated that he and Brown have no issues after seeing speculation follow the trade and Brown’s lack of social media post about the deal. Brown, who didn’t know that rumor existed, said he wouldn’t have even addressed it when asked on Sunday.

“Jayson and Jaylen are my brothers for life,” Smart said then. “I don’t think what the people see is enough of what and how our relationship really is. We’ve been through a lot together, we’ve been through the fire. My mom passed away and J.B. was actually one of people on that plane that came to Dallas to the funeral. So I just want to shut all the rumors down now that me and J.B. had beef. I have no beef with anybody with the Celtics, none of my teammates, I love those guys, they love me. We’re brothers.”

Whatever bad feelings existed smoothed over between those two dates, and Smart prepared to start fresh in a new city with a team that long branded and prided itself playing a style similar to Smart’s. He expected to fill in for Morant, and played point guard well, but the team surprisingly ruled out Steven Adams for the season as training camp concluded and only recently replaced him with Bismack Biyombo. Brandon Clarke remained sidelined from his achilles tear last year. An unaddressed wing position and Jaren Jackson Jr.’s inconsistent play added to the challenge posed by Morant’s suspension.

Nobody saw a start this difficult coming though. And with his former Celtics team cruising behind the Porziņģis and Jrue Holiday additions, seeing Smart on the opposing sideline will likely be a difficult sight for everyone who played, worked with and rooted for the long-time fan favorite struggling again with injury.

“I know what my relationship was with people and I know what I stand for,” Brown said. “That is a conversation around a lot of what’s going on in the world, so I’ll just leave it at that. That’s just the generation that we live in, but for him to still feel the need to come out and say something, that means even more … Marcus is a great person, I watched him grow and mature over the years, he’s watched me … I wasn’t the biggest fan of Marcus when I first got to Boston … but over time, I realized me and Marcus have similar spirits. If I was going to war with anyone, Marcus would be one of my first phone calls.”

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