AUBURN HILLS –Bruce Brown was told to bring a blazer to the Pistons home opener in the event he was made inactive and had to dress appropriately. Good thing he brought his hard hat and lunch pail, too.
Brown, in turn, told his mother not to bother coming to his first NBA game. He figured he wasn’t playing.
Instead, he started.
“Bruce was a total surprise to all of us – including himself,” Dwane Casey said of Brown being penciled in as a starter.
Luke Kennard was elevated to start in place of Stanley Johnson, whose toe injury had kept him out of practice in the three days leading up to the opener. The Pistons were prepared for that absence. But when Casey – who decided to hold a 4 p.m. walk through at Little Caesars Arena instead of the more customary morning shootaround – got to the arena three hours before tipoff, he learned that Reggie Bullock would likely be unavailable as well.
So that’s how Brown, the 42nd pick in June’s draft, wound up starting his first NBA game.
He might have been a little wide eyed, but he was a long way from overwhelmed.
Was it better to find out this way rather than learning 24 hours ahead of time that you’d be starting and risking a sleepless night?
“Nah. I think I’d have been good regardless,” Brown shrugs. “I put the time in and the preparation. I think I’d be fine.”
Yeah, but you must have been nervous when they told you that you’d be starting?
“I was happy. I just got ready, looked over the scout and got ready for the game.”
The box score shows Brown is still looking for his first NBA point, but it also shows the Pistons were six points better than the Nets in Brown’s 19 minutes. Besides, Casey wasn’t looking for points when he made the bold call to start Brown. Preventing them is what he had in mind. And the fact Brown proved unflappable was exactly what Casey would have anticipated.
“He’s very mature for his age. The moment is not too big for him,” Casey said. “He’s used to handling the ball in tough situations. He can defend one through four and his energy on the ball, I hope it’s contagious because he really gets after the ball in a one-on-one setting. Those are the things he brings to the table.”
Casey knew after watching Brown in Summer League that he’d be ready to play at the defensive end from day one – the end that vexes most rookies. Guess who else wasn’t surprised by Brown’s readiness?
“I knew I was an elite defender,” Brown said. “I mean, that’s what I do. Offense is secondhand. My goal is to be an elite defender and eventually be one of the best defenders in the league.”
Casey says Brown is “always” an option to get thrown into a game when a stout perimeter defender is needed, so even if Brown isn’t necessarily in the rotation, he’s always one opposition run away from potentially hearing his name called.
“We have a certain group that’s a defensive group that we feel confident in and he’s one of them,” Casey said of the 6-foot-5 Brown, 22. “He washed away all my fears this summer, just watching him defend in Summer League. We came into training camp knowing what he could do.”
And lest you think Brown is limiting his destiny to that of defensive specialist, well, guess again.
“People don’t know, I can really score the ball,” he said. “Me being more consistent shooting the three ball, getting more confident in it, I think my offensive game will skyrocket. I’ve just got to be more aggressive out there and my offense will come.”