Bruce Brown

Atlantic Notes: Brown, Celtics, Raptors, Knicks, Lillard

Nets guard Bruce Brown has proven to be a key role player for a stacked Brooklyn club, write Alex Schiffer and Seth Partnow of The Athletic in a detailed examination. Brown is hitting his stride just in time for him to reach restricted free agency this summer.

Brown has proven invaluable as the starting shooting guard in the stead of the injured James Harden during Brooklyn’s series against the Bucks so far. On the floor, Brown has flashed significant positional versatility for the Nets, beyond just functioning as a shooting guard. His help as a short-rolling center in the pick-and-roll has unlocked a variety of offensive opportunities for his teammates.

“It kind of evolved in front of us,” Nets head coach Steve Nash said of Brown’s transition from defensive-oriented wing to frequent pick-and-roll center. “We asked him to pick at times because he can bring up a defender that was more favorable, and then he became surprisingly such a good roller and adept at it that we encouraged it and pushed for it.”

There’s more out of the Atlantic Division:

  • With new Celtics team president Brad Stevens now in charge of finding his own replacement as head coach, there are several possible internal hires he could consider, writes Jared Weiss of The Athletic. Assistant coaches Jay Larranaga, Jerome Allen, Scott Morrison and Joe Mazzulla have all interviewed for the vacant head coaching gig so far, prompting Weiss to take a closer look at Boston’s in-house options.
  • This summer, there will be a variety of free agents who could serve as quality fits with the Raptors, writes Eric Koreen of The Athletic. Shoring up the club’s frontcourt appears to be a top priority for Koreen, as big men Richaun Holmes, Jarrett Allen, and John Collins, Nerlens Noel and Daniel Theis rank highly on Koreen’s list of candidates.
  • After an encouraging return to the playoffs this season, the Knicks could be in the market for a point guard upgrade. Mike Vorkunov of The Athletic considers whether Trail Blazers All-Star Damian Lillard could be a realistic trade target for New York. Whether or not Portland would even be interested in dealing their All-NBA point guard for a trade package from the Knicks is another matter.

Atlantic Notes: Brown, Griffin, Simmons, Raptors

With James Harden sidelined, Bruce Brown‘s role has expanded and the Nets guard is thriving, Peter Botte of the New York Post writes. Brown blanketed Khris Middleton while piling up 13 points, six rebounds, four assists and no turnovers in Brooklyn’s Game 2 blowout of the Bucks on Monday. “Bruce just comes in and plays extremely hard,” Kevin Durant said. Brown’s value is rising at an opportune time, as he’ll be a restricted free agent this summer.

We have more from the Atlantic Division:

  • Blake Griffin, who will be an unrestricted free agent this summer, continued his resurgence with another strong defensive outing against Giannis Antetokounmpo in Game 2, Brian Lewis of the New York Post notes. The Nets big man only took four shots, making three, after his 18-point, 14-rebound performance in Game 1. “He always plays with that good energy, fire to him,” Brown said. “They counted him out at the beginning of this year, so he’s got something to prove.”
  • Sixers coach Doc Rivers has compiled a series of video clips to demonstrate to the league that Ben Simmons doesn’t get a fair shake when guarding smaller players, according to Dave McMenamin of ESPN. “You should never be penalized for playing straight, solid, legal, physical defense,” Rivers said. Rivers has an ulterior motive to lobby for Simmons since the Sixers would prefer to have him guard the Hawks’ top scorer, Trae Young, during the conference semifinals.
  • The Raptors have enough versatile defenders to get by without a traditional center, Eric Koreen of The Athletic argues. Finding a big man with athleticism and agility should be the priority, with a free agent such as JaMychal Green, Daniel Theis, Richaun Holmes or Nerlens Noel filling that need.

Nets Notes: Harden, Brown, Green, Kidd

James Harden played in 128 postseason games during his time with the Thunder and Rockets, but he sees this year’s Nets team as his best chance to win an NBA title, writes Adam Zagoria of Forbes.

Harden is a former MVP and a nine-time All-Star, but he has developed a reputation for coming up short in the playoffs. Many of his losses came against loaded teams like the Warriors and Lakers, but now he’s part of an immensely talented team in Brooklyn.

“Obviously, there’s only a handful of teams that have an opportunity,” Harden said. “And we’re one of those teams this year. So the excitement is there, but I think just the focus is the most important thing for myself. And just trying to rub that focus level and that engagement to detail into every one of my teammates.”

There’s more on the Nets:

  • Bruce Brown is ready for the challenge of trying to slow down the Bucks, who were the NBA’s top scoring team during the regular season, according to Brian Lewis of The New York Post. The defensive specialist will match up with Jrue Holiday and Khris Middleton during the series and may be called on to help with Giannis Antetokounmpo.“It’s three-level scorers that can do a little bit of everything, get everybody involved. No team’s been better offensively this year, so really we’re just trying to be physical with them and try to limit their game,” Brown said. “We know what Giannis can do, we know what they can do, so try to be physical and try to limit their opportunities and make it tough.”
  • Jeff Green has been ruled out for tonight’s Game 1 with a left plantar fascia strain, but the Nets are hoping he’ll be available later in the series, Lewis adds in a separate story. Coach Steve Nash said the team considers Green day-to-day. “Just gonna continue to monitor it and then over the course of the next two, three days, hopefully get a clearer picture,” Nash said. “He’s working out. … I shouldn’t comment on that because in case I get it wrong, but I definitely see him with our strength and conditioning team and performance team, doing his thing.”
  • With Jason Kidd being considered for head coaching jobs in Portland and possibly Boston, Howie Kussoy of The New York Post looks at what went wrong during his time in charge of the Nets and Bucks and how both franchises became successful after he left.

Nets Notes: Free Agency, James, Fans, Tsai

Nets GM Sean Marks said the team’s success or failure in the playoffs will impact how he handles free agent decisions, Joe Makar of Nets Republic tweets.

“We need to be focused on the task at hand,” Marks said. “If the team lives up to expectations, we might have some easy decisions. If not, we might have to refocus elsewhere.”

Bruce Brown can be a restricted free agent this offseason, while Blake Griffin, Jeff Green, Tyler Johnson and Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot are among the group of players who will be unrestricted free agents.

We have more on the Nets:

  • Mike James can also become a restricted free agent, though he’d have to work out an agreement with CSKA Moscow to remain in the NBA. Brooklyn would like to hold onto the point guard, who averaged 7.7 PPG and 4.2 APG in 13 games after he was added on two 10-day contracts, then a rest-of-the-season deal, relays. “I will tell you that I really like Mike and I would like to have him with us in the years to come,” director of player personnel J.R. Holden said to Greece’s Gazzetta.
  • More fans will be allowed into Barclays Center for the postseason and there will be vaccinated and unvaccinated sections, Malika Andrews of ESPN tweets. Fans will have to pay more for tickets in the unvaccinated sections, according to team CEO John Abbamondi. “We are not neutral, we want people to get vaccinated,” he said.
  • Owner Joe Tsai was pleasantly surprised how the team transformed from an also-ran to an up-and-coming team to the Eastern Conference favorites in a short period of time, Brian Lewis of the New York Post writes. “In hindsight this ‘process’ was brilliant, but I certainly didn’t see it coming at the time,” he said.

Free Agency Rumors: Holmes, Hardaway, Powell, More

Kings center Richaun Holmes is expected to be a sought-after free agent this offseason, according to Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report, who spoke to a number of league personnel members about the 2021 FA class. Fischer’s sources suggested that a four-year, $80MM deal wouldn’t be out of the realm of possibility for Holmes.

“I think everyone’s going to be chasing him,” one team analytics staffer told Bleacher Report.

The Kings figure to make an effort to re-sign Holmes. General manager Monte McNair referred to the big man today as “an integral part of the team,” as James Ham of NBC Sports California tweets. And Ham himself made the case that retaining Holmes should be Sacramento’s top priority.

However, since the Kings only have Holmes’ Early Bird rights and don’t project to have a huge chunk of cap room, their ability to make a competitive offer may be limited if his price gets anywhere near as high as Fischer’s sources believed it could. The Hornets and Mavericks are among the other teams expected to have interest in Holmes, according to Fischer.

Here’s more from Fischer:

  • One personnel evaluator who spoke to Bleacher Report referred to Mavericks wing Tim Hardaway Jr. as “one of the best pure scorers in the league,” and won’t be surprised if he receives another lucrative multiyear deal now that his four-year, $71MM contract is set to expire.
  • That same personnel evaluator said he believes Trail Blazers guard Norman Powell can get $20MM annually in free agency, according to Fischer. “He’s just a guy that can play with anybody,” the evaluator said of Powell. “He doesn’t need the ball in his hands to be effective. He’s a good defender, he’s a great athlete, he gets to the rim. You can play him at the three, you can play him at the two. He’s a great character guy.”
  • Multiple league executives believe that Lakers guard Dennis Schröder is aiming to be paid like a top-tier point guard and that he’ll be prioritizing a starting role. The Knicks are among the teams mulling a run at him, sources tell Fischer.
  • League executives who spoke to Fischer identified Nets guard Bruce Brown, Knicks big man Nerlens Noel, and Lakers teammates Alex Caruso and Talen Horton-Tucker as some other under-the-radar free agents who could be in line for eight-digit annual salaries on their new deals.

Lowe’s Latest: K. Williams, Payne, Monk, Burks, Hartenstein

For the 10th year in a row, ESPN’s Zach Lowe has named his end-of-season “Luke Walton All-Stars,” honoring overlooked rotation players and NBA journeymen who have impressed him most over the course of the year.

Nets guard Bruce Brown, Warriors forward Juan Toscano-Anderson, and Raptors teammates Yuta Watanabe and DeAndre’ Bembry are among the players who made Lowe’s list, which also includes a handful of interesting tidbits on some of his choices. Here are a few highlights:

  • Thunder forward Kenrich Williams, who resisted signing a two-way contract multiple times earlier in his career, has enjoyed a breakout year in Oklahoma City. Sources tell Lowe that several playoff teams expressed trade interest in Williams prior to March’s deadline, but he wanted to remain in OKC, where he’s under contract for two more years (both non-guaranteed).
  • Suns guard Cameron Payne told Lowe that he thought his NBA career might be over in 2020, when the Mavericks opted to sign Trey Burke over him for the summer restart after he had played well for Dallas’ G League affiliate. However, he got an opportunity shortly thereafter with Phoenix, in large part because head coach Monty Williams had gotten to know him during their time with the Thunder.
  • Another former first-round pick, Hornets guard Malik Monk, was concerned about his NBA career last year as well, following his suspension for violating the NBA’s drug policy, his brother Marcus Monk told Lowe. The former Kentucky standout has enjoyed a career year while trying to let go of tension about his role, Lowe writes. “Guys who have success in college think the NBA is going to go a certain way,” Marcus said. “You think you’re invincible. Malik fell victim to that. I’m proud of how he matured.”
  • Before he signed a one-year, $6MM contract with the Knicks last fall, Alec Burks discussed a deal with the Bulls, according to Lowe. Burks’ familiarity with Knicks assistant Johnnie Bryant from their time in Utah was a factor in his decision to choose New York.
  • After an underwhelming stint in Denver, Isaiah Hartenstein has played well for the Cavaliers, averaging 8.3 PPG and 6.0 RPG in 16 games (17.9 MPG). Lowe says he wouldn’t be surprised if Hartenstein turns down his minimum-salary player option for 2021/22 to seek a new deal.

Atlantic Notes: Siakam, Bullock, Sixers, Bruce Brown

Raptors forward Pascal Siakam chatted about the challenges facing the relocated club this year and the expectations that arrive with his status as a maximum-salaried player this week, as Josh Lewenberg of TSN details.

“It’s different, it’s crazy, you get so much more attention and it’s something that I’m not used to and it’s not really me or my character,” Siakam said of life as a max player.

“Adversity, obviously, is not something that you want to go through but sometimes it defines the type of person you are,” he added, referring to the team’s struggles this season following its temporary move to Tampa from Toronto during the pandemic.

The Raptors, winners of the 2019 NBA title, will miss the playoffs for the first time since the 2012/13 season, well before Siakam was drafted. “I know that I’m a better player coming out of this and just going through the different struggles and stuff, and I’m excited about the future,” he said.​

There’s more out of the Atlantic Division:

  • The Knicks are hoping to re-sign shooting guard Reggie Bullock, an unrestricted free agent, during the summer, writes Marc Berman of the New York Post. New York head coach Tom Thibodeau praised Bullock as the team’s “unsung hero” this past weekend. The club will hold Bullock’s Early Bird rights during the upcoming 2021 offseason. Berman notes that sources around the league believe Bullock could fetch a deal in the vicinity of the full mid-level exception ($9-10MM). He is making $4.2MM this season.
  • As the playoffs near, the Eastern Conference’s top-seeded Sixers could use their final four regular season games to figure out the back end of their rotation, opines Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer. Pompey says that reserve center Dwight Howard‘s place appears secure, but that Philadelphia still seems to need to experiment with minute allocations for guards Matisse Thybulle, Tyrese Maxey, George Hill, Shake Milton, and Furkan Korkmaz.
  • The injury-plagued Nets are dealing with another banged-up rotation player, after guard Bruce Brown fractured his nose during a team practice, tweets Malika Andrews of ESPN. The (now quite literally) tough-nosed Brown will play through the injury in a mask against the Bulls tonight, and the club will then equip him with another mask back in Brooklyn.

Bruce Brown Reaches Starter Criteria, QO Increases

Bruce Brown has reached the starter criteria in his contract, jumping his qualifying offer from $2.1MM to $4.7MM, ESPN’s Bobby Marks tweets.

Brown made his 26th start for the Nets on Friday against his former team, the Pistons. He started 43 of 58 games for Detroit last season.

The starter criteria requires an RFA-to-be to start at least half of his team’s games in the two seasons leading up to his free agency.

[RELATED: Hoops Rumors Glossary: Starter Criteria]

This makes Brooklyn’s decision on whether to extend the QO to Brown a little trickier, considering its luxury tax bill considerations. It would still be a surprise if the Nets choose not to extend the QO, considering how valuable Brown has been this season. He’s averaging 8.3 PPG, 4.5 RPG and 1.4 APG and is a stout one-on-one defender for a team with a wealth of scoring options when at full strength.

Brooklyn holds Brown’s Bird rights and could also sign him to an extension prior to free agency.

Brown was a second-round selection by Detroit in 2018 but quickly jumped into the starting five as a rookie.

Eastern Notes: Ball, Pacers, Graham, Harden, Brown

Hornets guard LaMelo Ball is cementing his case to be the favorite for Rookie of the Year this season, Eric Koreen of The Athletic writes. Most recently, Ball finished with 23 points, nine rebounds, and six assists over the Raptors on Saturday, leading his team to a 114-104 win.

“The biggest thing is he made a couple of plays — I’m not saying we were threatening to cut the game down, but in the 15-to-17-point range — that were not looking good for them and all of a sudden, he zings a no-look pass for a layup or something,” Raptors coach Nick Nurse said of Ball. “You think you’ve just about got them all bottled up and you’re heading the other way, and he would make a really spectacular pass for an assisted bucket.”

The 19-year-old Ball has averaged 15.8 points, 6.1 rebounds and 6.4 assists this year, shooting 45% from the field and 39% from three-point range. Charlotte currently sits at sixth place in the East with a 19-18 record.

There’s more from the Eastern Conference tonight:

  • The Pacers‘ flight to Denver on Sunday afternoon has been delayed due to a major snowstorm, according to Scott Agness of Fieldhouse Files. The storm has produced more than 19 inches of snow in Denver, causing the Pacers to remain in Phoenix. The team plays the Nuggets on Monday after a 122-111 win over the Suns on Saturday.
  • Although he’s in a contract year, Hornets guard Devonte’ Graham isn’t complaining about losing his starting spot, Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer writes. In addition to LaMelo Ball‘s impressive play, fellow guard Terry Rozier is in the midst of a career season, averaging 20.3 points per game on 49% shooting.
  • Alec Sturm of NetsDaily examines how James Harden has helped Bruce Brown become a valuable contributor for the Nets this season. Brown, who is in his third NBA season, has started 22 of his 35 contests for Brooklyn this year.

Free Agent Stock Watch: Atlantic Division

Throughout the season, Hoops Rumors takes a closer look at players who will be free agents or could become free agents this off-season. We examine if their stock is rising or falling due to performance and other factors. This week, we take a look at players from the Atlantic Division:

Bruce Brown, Nets, 24, SG (Up) – Signed to a three-year, $3.92MM deal in 2018

The Pistons uncovered a diamond in the rough when they selected Brown with the 42nd overall pick in 2018. Brown quickly became a starter due to his defensive prowess, so it was surprising when Detroit’s new GM Troy Weaver dealt him in the off-season. He’s become an increasingly important role player on the star-laden Nets with his all-around contributions.

In the last six games prior to the All-Star break, Brown averaged 18 PPG, 6 RPG and 3 APG. He becomes a restricted free agent after the season – if he receives an offer sheet, can Brooklyn afford to keep him given all its salary commitments? The way Brown is playing, the Nets can’t afford to let him go.

Nerlens Noel, Knicks, 26, C (Up) – Signed to a one-year, $5MM deal in 2020

The Knicks have displayed dramatic improvement in part because players have settled into their roles. No one needed to tell Noel that he’d be the fifth option on the offensive end when he signed a one-year deal in the fall. The sixth pick in the 2013 draft had already carved a niche in the league as a post defender and rebounder.

With his team’s other centers, Mitchell Robinson and Taj Gibson, sidelined prior to the break, coach Tom Thibodeau relied heavily on Noel to patrol the middle. Noel averaged 40 MPG in the last four games prior to the break and the Knicks won three of them. Noel ranks fourth in the league in blocks despite playing just 22.2 MPG. He’ll continue to be valued for his strengths when he enters the free agent market again this summer.

Aron Baynes, Raptors, 34, C (Down) – Signed to a two-year, $14.35MM deal in 2020

The Raptors sit three games below .500 and are contemplating whether to trade long-time star Kyle Lowry. A big reason for their first-half struggles was the poor play of their middle men. Baynes seemed like a quality addition coming off a season with the Suns in which he posted career highs in points, rebounds and assists. It hasn’t worked out that way. Among qualified centers, Baynes ranks dead last – 62nd overall – in ESPN’s PER calculations.

The good news for the Raptors is that Baynes’ $7.35MM salary for next season isn’t guaranteed. He’s posted best numbers the last few games but it’s difficult to envision a scenario in which Baynes will ever see that money.

Jeff Teague, Celtics, 32, PG (Down) – Signed to a one-year, $2.56MM deal in 2020

Teague started on some good teams in Atlanta earlier in his career but he’s bounced around the league the last few seasons. Seeking a chance to play for a contender, Teague signed a veteran’s minimum deal with Boston to provide insurance behind Kemba Walker and his gimpy knees. He’s generally been a non-factor, though he perked up during the Celtics’ four-game winning streak heading into the break. With Marcus Smart returning to action and rookie Payton Pritchard earning steady minutes, Teague will likely find himself scrounging for playing time during the second half of the season.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.