The Boston Celtics added more defensive and scoring prowess last July when they acquired guard Malcolm Brogdon from the Indiana Pacers. The seven-year veteran was brought in to be a stopper and playmaker while also doing the little things that matter in head coach Joe Mazulla’s system, and he has complemented All-Stars Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown fairly well as the team’s sixth man, averaging 14.7 points, 4.2 rebounds and 3.6 assists in 25.9 minutes per game.
Brogdon, a 2016 second-round pick by the Milwaukee Bucks, won NBA Rookie of the Year in 2017 and the league’s Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award in 2020 for his commitment to education, gender and health equality. He sat down with Bally Sports to discuss his role on the Celtics, the NBA MVP race, the state of the Pacers and the young NBA talent to watch for.
In your career so far, you’ve always filled up a stat sheet. How have you adjusted your play in the Celtics system playing alongside Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown?
I think that I play more off the ball. I definitely play point guard at times, but really, now I am guarding 1 through 5 and I’m playing the 1, the 2 and the 3. So (there’s) a lot of spotting up in the corner, moving and cutting without the ball, not being the decision maker all of the time.
You went from playing defense against Tatum and Brown in the East to becoming their teammates in Boston. Now being their teammate, are there any things that they do in practice or in games that surprise you?
I mean, they’re tough shot makers. They make shots every game that you marvel at in tough times. They not only make tough shots, but they make ‘em in the clutch. And I think that’s what great teams have. That’s what championship teams have — they have one or two players that can make tough shots.
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You guys are doing well in the East. Where do you think the Celtics still need to improve to close the season well and make another NBA Finals run?
I think closing out games are going to be the biggest things for us. Rebounding the ball and closing out games and keeping our turnovers down. And I think that really for us, that’s going to win a lot of games especially in the playoffs.
What did you know about head coach Joe Mazzulla before you came to Boston?
Nothing. I actually didn’t know anything about him at all. And then once I got here before the situation, a few guys told me that he was sort of the mastermind behind our defense and everything in the Finals, and his game plan, his adjustments and his scouting reports were really good.
Nikola Jokic and Joel Embiid are discussed at length in the NBA’s MVP conversation. You and Giannis Antetokounmpo were teammates for some time. From your perspective, should he be in that conversation this season?
Oh yeah! For sure. I think that he is in the conversation. I think Joker is probably No. 1 right now. He’s having another incredible superb season, but I think that Giannis and JT are in that conversation as well. I think that they’re both having great seasons.
Being a former Indiana Pacer, are you surprised at the Pacers’ productivity this season?
Not super surprised. They have a lot of good young players, and I think that the front office has done a good job gathering young talent. Tyrese Haliburton is ready to take over that organization, and he’s proven that with his first NBA All-Star bid. So they’re going to be a good team going forward.
Taking a look across the NBA landscape, what are some of the biggest surprises you’ve seen this season?
There’s a lot more young talent in the league, especially in the last couple of years. And these guys are coming in the league and they’re getting the ball put right in their hands early on. So organizations are just shaped differently. The vets aren’t being utilized as much as they used to be, so it’s interesting. You see that with a lot of the teams, but then the top five, six teams in the league are veteran-dominant teams that are winning at a high level.
Who is a swingman in the league you’ve played against this season that people should watch out for in the near future?
I would say Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. Of course, people know about him because he was an All-Star this year, but he’s one of those guys that is still a young guy. He’s an excellent player.