The ending to his first season in Brooklyn left Bruce Brown with a sense of unfinished business.
With Kyrie Irving out with an ankle sprain, with James Harden battling his way through a hamstring strain, the Nets fell to the eventual champion Milwaukee Bucks in overtime of Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinals. Brown played 52 of 53 minutes in the playoff classic that Kevin Durant sent to OT with his 23-foot jumper with a second remaining.
“I was real salty all summer, I’m gonna be honest,” said Brown. “I didn’t watch no basketball. I was just pissed that we lost. I just can’t wait to get back there and then win. I didn’t sleep the night after the game at all. I went and tried to golf the next day which was a terrible decision. So yeah, I just can’t wait to get back.”
With the end of the 2020-21 season, Brown became a restricted free agent, but he made his return to Brooklyn official over the weekend by re-signing with the Nets. With his belief that a healthy Nets team would have brought home a championship and a desire to do exactly that next year, Brown was so set on returning he started house hunting for a new place right after the season ended.
“I really didn’t pay it any mind, honestly,” said Brown of his free agency. “I thought everything would take care of itself. I really was just working out the whole time, and then when free agency started, I actually was on the plane back to New York. So I didn’t really talk to anybody until I landed. I’m just happy to be back. It’s a great fit. I didn’t want to go anywhere else.”
Brown arrived in Brooklyn in a three-team, draft-week trade last fall with a reputation for defensive toughness that he lived up to. The Nets have made some similar acquisitions this summer with guard Jevon Carter and forward DeAndre’ Bembry.
On a team that’s known for scoring after setting a league record for offensive rating last season, Brown likes the idea of a lineup that puts him on the floor together with Carter and Bembry.
“I don’t think there’s gonna be any easy buckets, I’ll tell you that,” said Brown.
In the two months that have passed since the end of the season, Brown said he’s been hard at work on his shooting, particularly from 3-point range, where he shot 28.8 percent last season.
“Straight threes,” said Brown. “Catch and shoot threes. No mid-range. Leave that to KD and Kyrie.”
Brown made his impact on the offensive end in a unique way last season, evolving into an effective roll man and scoring off floaters in the paint when he wasn’t getting all the way to the rim where he took 318 of his 432 field goal attempts. He ended up shooting 55.6 percent, second in the league among players 6-foot-4 or under last season. Brown averaged 8.8 points and 5.4 rebounds per game, and his per-36 rebounding rate of 8.7 was also second for players 6-4 or under behind only Russell Westbrook.
“I love my role here,” said Brown. “It gets me on the floor. I do a lot of little things for the team that a championship team needs. So I’m going to continue to do that next year and hit more shots.”