LAS VEGAS – Before the assembled media got an answer from Bruce Brown, the Nuggets’ latest addition to their revamped roster, the versatile wing flipped the script.
“Y’all know how I play?” Brown asked while meeting with reporters shortly after Denver debuted Friday night at Summer League.
Despite confirming that we, indeed, were familiar with Brown’s game, he went on to describe why Denver provided the best landing spot in free agency.
“Cutters, we find the open spots, playing with (Nikola) Jokic and Jamal (Murray),” he said. “… The fit was perfect. (Jokic) makes perfect passes to backdoors. Easy layups for me.”
Brown said veteran forward Jeff Green, who’d played with Brown in Brooklyn before coming to Denver, blew up his phone in free agency and sold the benefits of playing alongside Jokic, the two-time MVP. Green would know better than most.
“I literally can’t wait,” Brown said of playing with Jokic. “He’s one of the guys I hate playing against, me being a defender because you can’t turn your head. You gotta keep your eye on the ball at all times, which is tough. He makes the perfect play every time.”
Brown, a stocky, 6-foot-4 guard, defies traditional framing with regard to position. He’s got point guard skills — and might help replace the since-traded Monte Morris — off-ball acumen, rebounding and defense, all of which the Nuggets pledged to improve this summer. In signing Brown, they believe they have.
If he can hit corner 3-pointers at a high rate, as he did last season in Brooklyn, all the better.
As Brown sat next to Nuggets coach Michael Malone late Friday night watching a few of his new teammates in their Summer League debuts, his new head coach was already grilling him on his defensive tendencies. Brown’s defense, specifically on Celtics wing Jayson Tatum, was the topic of discussion. During Boston’s first-round sweep of the disjointed Nets, Brown helped hold Tatum to 45% shooting throughout the series.
“I would urge everybody to go back and watch the playoffs from this year, go back and watch the playoffs last year, Bruce Brown is a tough kid,” Malone said. “I love his toughness. I love his defensive disposition. The guy I thought guarded Jayson Tatum better than most guys I’ve ever seen guard Jayson Tatum because he’s undersized, but he’s got a big chip on his shoulder. He’s tough, he’s physical, he’s trying to make your life hell.”
If there was a slogan for Malone’s favorite type of defenders, that might be it.
In addition to his defense, Brown scored 23 points in Game 2 of Brooklyn’s first-round series, and then followed that up with 26 points in Game 3. It was the manner in which he scored that most resonated with Malone. Not once did Nets coach Steve Nash call a play for Brown, but he still got in the seams of the Celtics’ top-ranked defense. Around Jokic, Murray and Michael Porter Jr., Brown doesn’t figure to hear his name called much on offense.
“He was getting that by running the floor, moving without (the ball), screening, rolling, spraying, playmaking, so he impacts the game on so many levels,” Malone said.
Physical and gritty, Brown was already speaking Malone’s language in the short time they interacted Friday night. Before settling on Denver in free agency, Brown knew he wanted to be in a place that valued his defense.
“That’s my calling card,” he said.