DENVER – Brooklyn Nets fans don’t have to worry about rookie Markel Brown getting a big head over his first NBA start.
After Monday morning’s shootaround, when Brown learned he would start in place of the injured Bojan Bogdanovic, Brown gave a young Nets fan the thrill of a lifetime.
Brown served as Zacky Cytryn’s personal ballboy, rebounding shots and feeding passes to the 13-year-old from Eatontown, N.J.
Brown then made the most of his first start, showcasing his athleticism with a double-double in a 110-82 win over the Denver Nuggets in the Pepsi Center. Brown had five rebounds and one astonishing block in 10 minutes in the first quarter.
The second-round draft choice, 44th overall, who once got ejected from a college game for dunking, played 45 minutes – 19 more than his previous high – in the Mile High City.
He finished with 10 points, 11 rebounds, four blocked shots, two steals, one assist and a ridiculous alley-oop throw-down off a pass from Deron Williams with four minutes left in the third quarter.
His first-quarter block came when Denver’s Randy Foye tried to take a wing jumper at the buzzer. Brown, who had dropped to the lane to help on defense, sprinted out and jumped, blocking Foye’s shot at its apex.
Oklahoma State fans, who watched Brown play for the Cowboys in college, are not surprised. The 6-3, 190-pound swing guard is the only player in school history to score 1,500 points, grab 500 rebounds, block 100 shots and make 100 steals.
Nickname suggestions for No. 22 from Nets fans on Twitter included “Captain Markel,” “Markelevator,” “Magic Markel” and “22 Jump Street”!
“That’s tough,” said Brown. “They’re all good. I think I like ‘Captain Markel’ the best.”
The Nets (23-31) are now 2-0 since the All-Star break. They play the Pelicans Wednesday night in New Orleans. The Pelicans will be without star center Anthony Davis (shoulder sprain).
KEY STRETCH: With the score tied 45-45 with 3:13 left in the second quarter, the Nets closed on a 9-0 run. Joe Johnson did what Joe Johnson does, milking the clock and scoring just before the buzzer. The Nets opened the third quarter with a 9-2 run to seize a 63-47 lead. They outscored the Nuggets 18-2 during that stretch.
KEY PLAY: Joe Johnson’s seven-foot jumper with one second left in the first half gave the Nets a 54-45 lead and seemed to deflate the Nuggets.
KEY STAT: Lionel Hollins was able to give nine Nets at least 10 minutes of playing time in the second game of a five-game road swing. This should help when the Nets finish in Houston and Dallas.
NETS GAINS: Deron Williams vowed to be more aggressive down the stretch and he again walked the walk. He followed his 12-point, 15-assist performance against the Lakers with a 16-point, 12-assist game against the Nuggets. He had just one turnover in 33 minutes.
TALK: Markel Brown on not getting much time this season:
“It was very hard, because I’m used to competing, and as a ballplayer you want to compete. It hurt to sit down and watch a whole game and not be able to get out there.
“It’s all mental, though. When you’re sitting on the bench and time’s ticking, it’s all mental. So whenever your name is called, you’ve got to instantly be in game mode.”