How do you know when a LeBron James dynasty is kaput? When Bruce Brown is writing the epitaph.
“(James) was saying I was happy because I made a few shots, and (said) they (the Lakers) want me to shoot,” the Nuggets’ plucky, play-anywhere wingman recalled with a grin late Wednesday after dropping a career-high four 3-pointers on the undead zombie horde masquerading as The Lake Show.
“And I was like, ‘Your gameplan ain’t working, sir.’”
What was funnier? That he called King James “sir?” Or that he did it while raining threes all over Team Brickhouse?
“(His) shooting, in Brooklyn, he really wasn’t known for it because of the way he had to play,” Nuggets teammate Jeff Green said of Brown, whose 18 points and five boards helped power Denver to a 110-99 victory. “He had to sacrifice a lot (there). So I think now, people are going have to respect what he can bring to the table.”
They’re going to have respect what the Nuggets (3-2) can bring, too. Even if they turn up at the party, as they did against the Lakers, without Michael Porter Jr., And even if their defense has gotta be the horse that carries them over the finish line.
“We can be really good (on the defensive end),” Brown said of his teammates, who held a dance partner under 100 points for the first time in the young season.
“A lot of it (is), we don’t talk as much as we should … We need more communication out there. But I mean, we go through every rotation every practice. I think once we click, we’re going to be really good.”
You know who’s not good? The Lakers, who slipped to 0-4 as their traveling groupies skulked to the Ball Arena exits. It’s only the fourth time in franchise history that ESPN’s favorite NBA franchise opened a season at 0-4, and in the other three seasons they went on to lose an average of 60 games.
LeBron turns 38 in December. Anthony Davis appeared to tweak his back in the third quarter while chasing a rebound. Los Angeles rolled into Chopper Circle ranked last in the NBA in field-goal percentage (a laughable 18.8%) on shots from between eight to 16 feet away from the bucket.
Grab some popcorn, kids, because this is going to get ugly. And awesome. But mostly ugly.
“I got hit in my back and (that) kind of just irritated it again,” A.D. told reporters after the game. “I’ll be fine.”
Nuggets coach Michael Malone said MPJ’s wonky back is fine, too, and expects him to play against the Jazz on Friday. Still, Wednesday’s “lumbar management” off day for MPJ, while prudent, also conjures up red flags, painful memories and bad juju.
“If we needed Michael to play (vs. L.A.), he would’ve played. He could’ve played,” Malone said. “This (was) us trying to protect him a little bit, make sure he’s all right.”
If Brown — one of the league’s scrappy, whatever-you-need dudes, the NBA’s version of a utility infielder — can keep shooting like this, hey, protect away.
“(I enjoy) how crazy he is,” Nikola Jokic, who dropped 31 points, 13 boards and nine assists on The Lake Show, said of Brown. “And just this crazy energy that he always provides, it’s amazing.”
Especially when you consider where the Nuggs might’ve been without him. While Brown went 4 for 5 on treys in the first half, the rest of his teammates, including Jamal Murray (0-for-his-first-5) and Bones Hyland (0-for-his-first-4) were a combined 1 for 16.
“And (the Lakers) were calling me a ‘shift’ guy, which means (to) close short,” Brown said, explaining why LeBron and company were so happy to let him shoot. “As you all know, I’m used to that. So teams are going to continue to do that.”
After that epitaph? Not so much. Not if they want their game plan to work. Not unless, like James’ Lakers, they’ve already sashayed past the point of no return.