"As long as I stay low...": Jaylen Brown's trainer reveals Celtics superstar's mantra for 2024 NBA Finals MVP success (Exclusive)

Jaylen Brown made good on his $286,000,000 contract extension in 2023-24
Jaylen Brown made good on his $286,000,000 contract extension in 2023-24

In between the ball handling, defensive and conditioning drills, Boston Celtics guard Jaylen Brown often hears his trainer preach something else important.

The topic: the dynamic between Brown and Jayson Tatum. Dash Lovell, who has worked as Brown’s personal trainer, has often stressed, “Don’t let people separate you guys.”

Amid five Eastern Conference Finals and one NBA Finals appearance without a championship to show for it, Brown and Tatum spent their first seven seasons together hearing calls for the Celtics to break up their duo. Even with the Celtics on their way to win an NBA title against the Dallas Mavericks, Brown and Tatum faced scrutiny on whether they actually get along.

Their on-court actions validate what others that work with them stress about their dynamic. Both Tatum and Brown have maintained interest in making tactical adjustments with their scoring and playmaking to ensure their chemistry reaches another level.

Explore the NBA Draft 2024 with our free NBA Mock Draft Simulator & be the GM of your favorite NBA team.

Brown won Finals MVP after averaging 20.8 points on 44% shooting and 5.0 assists while excelling as a primary defender on Mavs star Luka Doncic. Tatum also became effective by overcoming his poor shooting (38.8%) with dependable scoring (22.2), rebounding (7.8) and playmaking (7.2 assists).

“I see two guys sacrifice for each other all year long,” Lovell told Sportskeeda. “Jayson Tatum is one of the best players in the world. Jaylen Brown is also one of the best players in the world. “You saw two guys decide to sacrifice and play like they were role players.”

Dash Lovell on training Jaylen Brown (Exclusive)

Lovell also spoke extensively about Brown’s training, his defense on Doncic and more.

Editor’s note: The following one-on-one conversations have been edited and condensed.

How do you put Jaylen’s season in perspective with his NBA championship, Finals MVP and his various moments of growth?

Lovell: “From watching him in the past, he’s had times with being in the Finals before and experiencing disappointment and losing and times when early in his career dealing with being the No. 3 pick and coming off the bench and having to work his way into the rotation. He got a chance to come into this season with all of those things at heart and in mind, and being able to really come into a summer of work that was motivated by those things in the past. He was locking in on his body, his mentals and how he shared his energy. He stayed to himself a lot in the summer. He really focused on his game. He studied the game more than ever. He understood film. He understood flow of game and timing."

"I think it showed all throughout the year. If you watch his floor play, you see the maturity in him. He was okay with other people [taking over] at different times of the game and not forcing anything and letting the game come to him. He was more efficient from the field and the mid-range area. Obviously, there’s always room for growth in different areas. But you’re seeing him being super-efficient with his floor game. That led up to him being an All-Star. He wasn’t All-NBA, which I think he should’ve been with being an All-Star leading up to having one of the best records in the league. It was just the preparation of each playoff game. I’m not surprised considering the preparation going into the playoffs, the second round and the Eastern Conference Finals and then winning MVP there. Then waiting for Dallas and seeing who will win that series and watching how he could prepare with that time and that break. You couldn’t write the story any better.”

Following up on his point about locking in on his body and his mentals as well as his film study. Can you give a peek behind the curtain on what that was with the work you did together?

Lovell: “Our focus was on two things. Making sure that he had clean movements and making sure that he had great flow and feel for his movements. Another thing was understanding how people would guard him. We really focused on matchups, who would guard him that night and what the assignment would be. We’ll also focus on what they ran as a team and try to make sure his movements were sharp within the team system. We broke down a lot of film so we could clean up his indecisiveness on things. We were always watching film to always know what coverages were going to come and so we can see how different defenders like to guard. That could give us some perspective on how we need to approach playing. This year, I watched him grow as far as not guessing. He wasn’t out there guessing what would happen. He already knew game planning, understanding who is covering who and how they’re going to cover. I think that gave him more of a feel and flow for things as we went out on the floor. We had a conversation before we started to work throughout the summer. That conversation was, ‘If you trust me, I want to help you throughout the season.’ I think if you stay sharp and throughout the season and you live in the gym, you will see the results.’ It was about getting him to buy into being in the gym more with waking up early. He saw that it paid off with being in the gym more and being in the gym consistently and taking his time with fixing his movements and cleaning up the flow in his game.”

With being in the gym more, what did that day-to-day look like compared to other seasons?

Lovell: “A lot of times when guys think about being in the gym more, sometimes they think it’s a lot of running and moving. They’re thinking, ‘I already had practice, I already had a lift. Can I play 82 games?’ Our thing was about showing him how to be in the gym more in condensed work. It’s just like going to the barbershop and getting a nice cleanup. You might not get the whole haircut. But you’re just going to clean up. Once I showed him how we could clean up and shorten things up in little areas, it made more sense to get in the gym more. We weren’t beating his body up to the point where he couldn’t get things done when he went back out there to play. We had our own little style of cleaning and sharpening things up so we’re not tiring guys out on top of their 82 games. He did a really good job with always making sure he had treatment and did his stretching. He had a whole list of routines that he went through to make sure that he stayed on top of his body.”

What was that?

Lovell: “Going into the pool and swimming a lot. Yoga, physical therapy and always getting treatment and recovery. He also had a martial arts class that he took and was really big on it. His whole thing was making sure he was connected to his body and connected to all of his movements and staying low and being aggressive and strong and keeping everything on balance. That was some of the focuses for us all year. He had this saying, ‘As long as I stay low and stay on balance, everything will handle itself.’ It represents life, too. You hear the words. ‘Stay low, you’re thinking, ‘Don’t be outside too much’ and ‘stay out the way.’ JB and I always talked about how much basketball is like life. So we always had this thing where life taught us basketball and basketball taught us life. In basketball, ‘staying low’ is important to be stronger and finding explosiveness. In basketball, they always say, ‘the low man wins.’ You have more leverage and advantage."

"If you see Jaylen picking Luka [Doncic] up full court, he’s low and he’s down and he’s quicker and stronger from that position. Same thing in life. When you stay out the way and you stay low, you have more energy to get things done. You’re not pulled in different directions. You have more energy, time and focus on what you have to do. It makes sense on both ends. Our thing was balance. In life, you have to have balance. You can’t be too far removed from too many different things. But you want to be even keel. Same thing with basketball. When you’re on balance, you have the ability to be more efficient with your shot-making ability and your decision-making ability. Any time guys can get you off of that, that becomes a problem. Staying low helps with your balance, and it’s all connected. Once you stay low and stay balanced, everything will handle itself. When you do those two things in life, you don’t have to worry about the things you can’t control. The universe will be able to bring those things to you. We weren’t worried about getting MVP. We were just worried about him playing the right way. He never worried about getting Eastern Conference MVP or Finals MVP. That was never the focus. The focus was always winning a championship. Those other things just came because everything else handled itself. One thing we really focused on this summer was being better with his left hand and handling the basketball. When he handles the basketball better, he’s able to be a better passer and playmaker. Because his ball-handling ability is improving, he’s able to use his eyes more to make better decisions.”

What things did Jaylen do to improve his left hand?

Lovell: “Just basically spending more time on it and finishing around the rim. A lot of people say he doesn’t have a left [hand]. But if you really look throughout the year, he finished with his left hand more than a lot of the wing players in the NBA. Our focus was just on making better decisions going left and finishing through contact with our left. Every now and then, he would form shoot with his left hand, dribble with his left hand and pass with his left hand. We would have days where we would go in there for an hour straight and mess around with his left hand. On a tougher day, if we went three hard days, on the fourth day, we might say, ‘Hey all left hand today.’ We’ll ball handle for 30 minutes on his left hand. We’ll form shoot with his left hand. We’ll do layups with his left hand. It’s just about getting him comfortable and getting his muscles working again.”

How did you see all of this work play out so he could benefit with Porzingis and Holiday’s arrival, improve his efficiency and playmaking and maintain his scoring?

Lovell: “When we focused on getting better, it was never about just for him. It was all team first. With him working on his handle, he’s able to use his eyes more and make a basketball decision. The conversation when about getting better is about yourself. But in life, what you do for others, the more is done for you. The concept is always to make the right choice. ‘If he’s open, get off the ball. If he’s open, play together.’ I remember after they lost Game 4 in Dallas, we were on the phone. He texted, ‘What did you see?’ and I said, ‘You guys went away from things you did that made you who you guys were with playing as a team and moving the ball quicker. You see guys loaded on the backside, you have to get the ball and swing, swing, swing so we can get back to those drive-and-kick actions.’ It was tough because they were already missing shots. When the ball isn’t moving, it makes things tougher. Then on the other end defensively, they’re not in their regular rotations. And now you’re out of the game.

I get it. The lead was so far ahead. They were just like, ‘Let’s just wrap it up and get it back home.’ But those were the conversations we had after Game 4. They cleaned those things up. I knew they would clean it up as a team. But once you play the game the right way, you’ll always make the right choices. I think Brad Stevens and the whole coaching staff did an amazing job with putting the right pieces around to be able to complement each other. If you look at all the guys on the roster, everyone can shoot it, drive it and pass it. You were in a tough position in rotations. If the ball moved, you could shot fake, drive and kick. It’s going to be a long night for you as well as on how well they play defense. That was our focus with working on our handle. Being able to see the floor better and use that ability to continue to just make plays for the game itself.”

After seeing the games and talking to people around Tatum, it seems that both tried to make tactical adjustments while trying to maintain their skills as scorers. How did you see that dynamic play out this season?

Lovell: “Tatum is such a great player, man. I always talk to JB. I don’t speak to Tatum. I haven’t really spoken to him. But when I talk to JB, it’s always, ‘Don’t let people separate you guys.’ Everybody tries to push this narrative on who’s better – is Tatum better or is JB better? That’s not important. Who is better is not important. ‘You guys are teammates; you got to love each other and care about each other and play for each other.’ I see two guys sacrifice for each other all year long. Jayson Tatum is one of the best players in the world. Jaylen Brown is also one of the best players in the world. You saw two guys decide to sacrifice and play like they were role players. They moved it. It could’ve been anybody’s nights. One night, Derrick White could give you 40. One night, Jrue Holiday could give you 26. One night, Porzingis could get going. I watched them all year long sacrifice and not care whose night it is. It doesn’t matter. One night, Tatum could have 30 and Jaylen could have 16. One night, Jaylen could have 40 and Tatum could have 18. You saw that all year long. I think it’s scary when guys get away from worrying about their numbers and just play for the team. That’s a tough team to beat when guys are playing that way.”

The matchup data showed Luka shot only 9-for-22 from the field and 2-for-8 from 3 when Jaylen guarded him. What jumped out at you with how Jaylen approached that matchup and what he did effectively?

Lovell: “A couple of things. One, Luka plays so many possessions on the ball. That’s tiring, period. Jaylen made it harder by picking him up full court. Not only is he playing that many possessions on the ball. He’s also picking him up full court. Now that Jaylen picked him up full court all night long, he’s getting him a little bit more tired. If you were running your offense with 15 or 18 seconds on the clock, him picking him up takes a little bit of that time down. So now you got to run your offense with less time. Two, when Jaylen got off the ball, he denied Luka and made other guys pay. He was like, ‘I’m not letting him touch it again.’ So now he has to fight back just to get into the play to touch the basketball. Three, Boston started being more aggressive with fighting through the ball screens and trying to show two on the ball and make other guys make decisions. When you see those things, those are a lot of the reasons for Luka’s numbers going down. It’s about the pressure and the attention they were giving him. In Game 4, there were a lot of one-on-one coverages. I asked [Jaylen] after Game 4 if it’s the plan just to let Luka go one-on-one. I was confused. You saw stretches with Payton Pritchard, great defender but smaller in size, and Derrick White, great defender too. But he doesn’t have the same big physical body that Jaylen has to bump. There were times that he was just going one-on-one. But Jaylen has speed and strength to be able to move and keep up and chase you around all day.

A lot of people don’t understand when they look at Jaylen and they see that his free-throw percentages are down (70.3%, lowest since 2018-19). It’s not easy to guard one of the greatest players in the world full court and deny him, and then go back on offense and then try to shoot a free throw. With this game, you have to give up something to get something. He gave up something on his free-throw percentage. But guess what? He got something on the defensive end. It’s tough. It’s a give-and-take league. Just like you said earlier with Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, it’s a give-and-take. They’re going to give up their personal reward and feeling for the team.”

Free-throw percentages aside, Jaylen is still scoring at a high level on a lot of shots and defending. He’s in his late 20s. But from a training standpoint, what things does Jaylen do in the offseason and during the season to have the endurance to play on both ends?

Lovell: “This year, he really pushed his body in the pool. As he continues to work and find out his feel and movement, he’s going to become better. I’ve seen Jaylen make 90 free throws in a row. He can make free throws. I think a lot of times that guys get to the line and it’s such a simple act that they put so much pressure on it. It’s just about clearing your mind and allowing the game to be what it is and not put so much pressure on the game. In Game 5 when Derrick White hit his teeth on the floor, they’re over there laughing and joking about that you look ugly. You can tell they’re having fun with the game. They started understanding to just play basketball. Don’t play the NBA Finals. Play basketball. The Finals is a moment in basketball. A lot of times the moment becomes bigger than the game. That should never happen. With the Boston Celtics, they decided not to let the moment become bigger than basketball.”

I understand the season just ended and they’re going to enjoy the parade. But what will Jaylen’s offseason look like with you?

Lovell: “He’s going to take a break, get himself together and mentally get back in it. The push is for him to take it to another level because next year people are going to really dial into him. He made this huge run as a Finals MVP, Eastern Conference Finals MVP and All-Star. People are going to really dial in to try to game plan. Not that they didn’t gameplan before, but they will really gameplan on him now. How can they take him out of the game? So continue to show him with his jumping ability. When he gets up on his pull-up jump shots, he can continue to shoot on the way up and not hold it. He can focus on taking straight lines when he’s going to the basket. I’ve already started taking notes. There are things that I already saw that we want to improve on. Keep improving on his 3 ball and off-the-dribble. Keep improving on his left hand. Keep improving on his free throws. Just be able to work on playing off two feet more. Just being strong with his ball placement when he’s turning the corner and getting downhill. Those are just some of the things that I’ve obtained and are ready to attack with him. As he dials into those things and continues to grow, he’s going to be fine. It’s really just the nuances and small details of your game. But that’s the stuff that will take you to the next level.”

From your understanding, is there still a possibility that Jaylen could join Team USA for the Paris Olympics as an alternate replacement? Or has that ship sailed?

Lovell: “I don’t know. That would be very interesting, though. I believe that he should be on Team USA. If they throw it his way, I wouldn’t be surprised that he takes it on. I don’t see why not. He was the Eastern Conference Finals MVP and NBA Finals MVP. Just continue to reward him. He played well. That’s something that they could use in those games. You look at the FIBA games with the way that guys can sit in the paint and guys can clog certain areas. Jaylen is one of the best transition scorers in the NBA. It makes sense for him to be in the USA game with the defensive end and his ability to get out and run. He can push the pace so other teams can’t set with their defense and just sit in the paint. That’s something huge with guys like [Anthony Edwards] getting out on the open wings and running. Team USA’s defense has always shown. Not only do we have the greatest players in the world. But our defense gets us out in the open floor. Start with the ‘Dream Team.’ It started with their defense and getting out on the open floor. Jaylen Brown being that Scottie Pippen kind of guy that defensively is long, active and gets out on the open floor. That’s something huge they could use.”

Mark Medina is an NBA insider with Sportskeeda. Follow him on X, Instagram, Facebook and Threads.

Quick Links

Edited by Amulya Shekhar
App download animated image Get the free App now