Brown kicks it up a notch as Pistons fall short against Memphis
LAS VEGAS – It’s not that Bruce Brown was bad in his first Summer League game – the first basketball game for him since a broken foot in January ended his sophomore season and, ultimately, his college career.
It’s just that he was a little too passive for anyone’s liking.
“I was shying away from contact and the coaches kept telling me that,” Brown said after the 73-70 loss to Memphis. “And then my agent told me I’ve got to punch some people.”
He kept his fists to himself, but Brown left his fingerprints on the game.
He finished with 12 points and seven rebounds, tying Henry Ellenson for the team lead in boards, and had a chance to force overtime with a 3-pointer at the buzzer that bounced off the rim.
“Still learning,” he said. “I think on the last play that Coach drew up, I think I should’ve gone right instead of going left.”
Brown attacked the basket hard, twice attempting sensational dunks, drawing the foul on one. On defense, the Pistons took advantage of his strength and versatility with Brown finding himself matched up against Memphis’ cohort of large post players on several occasions. He poked the ball away once, forced a kick-out pass another time and never allowed easy scores.
“I love physicality,” he said. “I played football for most of my life, so I love being down there with the bigs. In AAU and high school, I had to play the four sometimes, so I’m used to it.”
“One of the things you’re always looking for in players is defensive versatility,” Pistons assistant Sean Sweeney, in charge of the Summer League team, said after the game. “We played him at the four today a little bit and I thought he did a really nice job of competing downstairs and then also guarding pick and rolls when the occasion arose.”
The other Pistons second-round rookie, Khyri Thomas, also had his share of enticing moments. Thomas finished with 13 points, hitting 3 of 5 from the 3-point arc. More than anything, Thomas stands out so far for making the right play, keeping it simple and competing on every possession.
“He does a good job with that. One of the things we’ve seen with him throughout is he does a great job of asking really good questions,” Sweeney said. “Trying to make sure he knows what the expectation is, what the execution level is and then trying to do it as well as he can out on the floor. The circle of competence is a huge thing for a guy and you’re always trying to expand it, but you’re always trying to stay within it. He does a good job of both.”
Ellenson again struggled with his shot, finishing with 15 points after missing his first seven 3-point attempts and finishing 1 of 10 from the arc and 5 of 21 overall. But Sweeney pointed out that Ellenson was utilized in a unique role for a virtual 7-footer and how he was used speaks to why the Pistons new administration is so high on his potential.
“He’s a skilled guy, especially vs. Memphis because they were pressuring the guards a lot,” Sweeney said. “That first half, the ball was in his hands and he was basically playing point guard from the top of the floor, just playing out of five-out. A lot of times when you’re facilitating like that, you’ve got a little bit more on your mind. I thought he did a really good job showcasing his ability to do multiple things offensively.”
The Pistons get Sunday off before playing their third Summer League game on Monday, the last of the preliminary round. After that, the Summer League playoff format will kick in.