Celtics swingman Jaylen Brown didn’t know whether he could muster the strength to play in Thursday night’s huge early-season game against the Warriors. His childhood best friend, Trevin Steede, had passed away the night before in Atlanta, and Brown was a wreck. But after a talk with Coach Brad Stevens and a call from Steede’s mother, Brown suited up and ended up being the difference in the Celtics’ 92-88 win, which extended their winning streak to 14 games. He finished with a team-high 22 points and added seven rebounds, two blocks, two steals and some strong defense in 34 minutes.
An emotional Brown talked about what Steede meant to him after the game.
“My best friend passed last night. It was tough to kind of accept it,” Brown said. “Everybody was kind of in shock. But I knew coming into today that he would have wanted me to play. It was hard getting my thoughts together, but after talking to his mom and his family, they inspired me to come out and play.
“I wasn’t in any shape to come out. I didn’t want to leave my room. But they inspired me to come out and play. And I came out and played in his spirit today. My teammates held me up and we pulled it out.”
The cause of Steede’s death is not yet known. Earlier this month, he posted a YouTube of a lighthearted game of one-on-one the two played at the Celtics’ practice facility. Its goal may have been to show the vast chasm in talent between an NBA player and a regular Joe, but now it’s a sad reminder of the easygoing friendship the two shared.
“[Steede] tells this story all the time: I transferred schools to play basketball at Wheeler High School. He was already there. And they transferred me in,” Brown said after Thursday night’s game. “Ultimately, I was probably taking his spot, but I remember I didn’t have any friends sitting at the lunch table. The first few days I sat by myself and acted like I’m too cool, I didn’t need anybody. You know what I mean? Like, I’m an introvert. I’ll be all right.
“And he walked up to me on the third or fourth day and asked me who I was sitting with, even though I wasn’t sitting with anybody. And then he told me to come over and sit with him. And ever since then we’ve been best friends. For him to do that even though the circumstances, ever since then that’s been my brother, you know?”
Stevens went through a similar situation last year when point guard Isiah Thomas’s sister passed away right before the playoffs began, so he was able to find the right words.
“A couple hours before [Thursday’s game], I was talking to Brad, and I told Brad I didn’t think I was going to be able to do it,” Brown said. “I couldn’t get my thoughts together, I couldn’t gather myself. Then his mom called me and gave me a whole new inspiration. I kinda think that was the reason why I was able to come out and play and be controlled and poised.”
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