With star defender Marcus Smart as a vocal leader plus scoring spark from Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum, the Boston Celtics have reached their first NBA Finals since 2010.
The trio of 20-something stars united to lift the Celtics from a 23-25 start into a best-of-seven showdown for the crown against Golden State that starts Thursday.
"We all just got comfortable with each other through experience," Brown said Wednesday. "We've been playing together so long. So you learn each other's tendencies and traits and how to speak to each other and how to basically just be a better teammate."
Brown, 25, was taken third overall by Boston in the 2016 NBA Draft while Tatum, 24, was picked third in the 2017 draft and guard Smart, 28, was selected sixth in the 2014 draft.
Together they advanced as far as the Eastern Conference finals three times in four seasons before finally reaching the NBA Finals this season, Smart winning the NBA Defensive Player of the Year award and serving as an outspoken leader.
"Over time, you learn, you make mistakes, you argue, you fuss, you fight," Brown said. "But once you've been together for so long with a core group, and you've been in the Celtics organization as long as Smart has been, you find different ways to be an example."
Smart notably called out Tatum and Brown early in the season, but his example has helped the two top scorers to find their own voice in the locker room as well as showing off their skills on the court.
"Marcus is emotional as a player in the things he says and the way he plays and wears it on his sleeve," Celtics coach Ime Udoka said.
"Nothing said publicly had not been said privately. Although it may rub people wrong because it was said publicly, that was something we were working on behind the scenes every day.
"Marcus, as well as the others, their leadership and being vocal has been invaluable to the group. Jayson and Jaylen have grown in that area and do it their own way. That mix of leadership and different styles benefits our team."
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