Nets' recent improvement coincides with more playing time for Bruce Brown
DETROIT – During the first three games of the season, Bruce Brown did not get off the bench in one game and saw limited minutes in garbage time of the other two as the Nets got off to a 1-2 start.
It marked a major change from the previous season when Brown was a part-time starter and full-time contributor. But since Brown joined the starting lineup five games ago, the Nets have gone 4-1 and improved dramatically on the defensive end. While the Nets have improved in general during that stretch, Brown’s presence has played a significant role.
"We knew Bruce would be back playing," Nets coach Steve Nash said at shootaround Friday morning before the Nets faced the Pistons later at Little Caesars Arena. "We know what we get from Bruce. Training camp was short, and we wanted to get more information and more looks with the big lineup, with different guys, give them some more minutes to start so we could see more of how they fit and how they look.
"The preseason games, we didn't play everyone every night, so it's tricky. We know what Bruce does. Bruce plays with energy, passion, heart, defense, different positions. And offensively he's got a knack for rolling and causing problems with that."
Brown said Nash told him what to expect from the outset, and he trusted that he would have a role and stayed patient. "I knew just the way I play and with what I bring to the floor that my time would come," Brown said. "I wasn’t worried about it at all."
Brown is averaging 7.7 points and 4.0 rebounds, but even though he is listed as a 6-4 guard, he makes his living at the defensive end guarding bigger players on a regular basis. "I just try and make it tough," Brown said. "My role on this team is to play defense on the best offensive player every night. I’m just going to be tough about it."
It might come as more of a surprise, but Brown believes he also had a positive impact on the Nets on offense. "Really our pace at the offensive end, really getting us easy shots and slips in transition with me and James [Harden] and Joe [Harris] is getting the open three," Brown said. "Teams are starting to help off me again, which is fine. I’m just going to screen for Joe in the corner or Kevin [Durant] in the corner. I’m just playing basketball."
Brown is in his fourth NBA season, but he spent the first two with the Pistons under coach Dwane Casey, who helped develop his versatile skill set.
"I remember when I was here, coach Casey used to say I wasn’t a point guard when I was a point guard," Brown said with a smile. "I’m just a basketball player. You put me on the floor and I’m going to make plays regardless of what position I’m in."
The Nets acquired Brown before last season as part of a trade. Asked if he feels anything special about returning to Detroit to play, Brown said, "No, not any more."
If anything, Brown simply is happy to have developed into an important role player with a Nets team that is expected to contend for the NBA title. Their game against the Pistons is the beginning of a season-high six-game trip that should provide a good early-season barometer on where they’re at in that process.
"We’ve just got to be locked in and know our personnel really well," Brown said. "Obviously, playing on the road is different. Their fans are going to be there and be loud. So we’ve just got to bring our energy."
That’s Brown’s specialty.