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Nets looking for Bruce Brown to be a defensive stopper

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Ever since Bruce Brown came into the NBA as an unheralded second-round pick by the Pistons in 2018, he’s known he’d have to make defense his calling card. And after joining the star-studded Nets, he didn’t suddenly get confused about his job description.

Traded to a team with stars Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving and a potent offense, Brown admits it’s going to be his ability to guard and willingness to grind that gets him out on the floor. And he’s fine doing yeoman’s work.

“Yeah, that’s definitely going to be my role,” said Brown, 24, who arrived along with Landry Shamet in a three-way deal with Detroit. “Scoring-wise, that’s KD, Kyrie, we’ve got Caris [LeVert], Joe [Harris]. I think I just come in and bring a dog mentality on the defensive end, and match up with the best offensive player every night.”

That’s exactly what the Nets have been looking for this offseason.

“Bruce, we’ve talked about adding some defensive players,” general manager Sean Marks said. “A toughness, a mindset, that’s what we’ll certainly be looking for in Bruce.”

Bruce Brown
Bruce BrownCorey Sipkin

Brown provided that for Detroit his first two seasons. The 6-foot-4, 202-pound high school football player — a safety, naturally — earned his minutes not with his so-so offense but rather his stifling defense.

“Really, just come in and be a dog,” Brown said of his mindset. “Obviously a second-round pick, I thought I could’ve went higher, so I went in with the mentality of knowing what I can do, knowing my role early, locking in on the defensive end and just really trying to pave a way for myself to play a little bit.”

Brown paved the way with his defensive prowess, flashed in a Nov. 23, 2018, matchup against Houston. After not having played for four straight games, the rookie ended up thrust with the responsibility of defending James Harden. Despite the scoring champion’s 33 points, Brown held him to 0-for-7 shooting with three turnovers when guarding him.

Within two weeks, Brown was in the lineup and never came back out. He finished in the top 20 of FiveThirtyEight’s Draymond stat ranking defenders. Just two rookies logged more minutes for 2019 playoff teams, and Shamet was one.

This past season was more of the same, as Brown held Harden to 2-of-10 shooting amid a 39-point outing to help Detroit win. Though Irving had a 20-point triple-double on Nov. 2 against the Pistons, he was just 2-of-10 with two turnovers against Brown as the Pistons walked away with another victory.

Brown had further chances to impress when he played in the Nets’ recent ad hoc pickup games at the Sports Academy in Los Angeles and got to speak with Irving.

“We’ve played a few times in pickup this summer in L.A. Kyrie, me and him talked a little bit, so it’s been cool,” said Brown, convinced he’d be a good foil for Irving. “I’m a slasher, a spot-up shooter. He’s more on-ball. I’ve guarded him a lot these past two years, so I know exactly how he plays. We’ll fit perfectly together.”

Brown learned about the trade early last week, walking into Detroit’s facility to work out. He’s now in Brooklyn and already finished his quarantine, ready to start camp.

The Nets’ trade of the No. 19 pick and Dzanan Musa to get Brown and Shamet is a win-now move, but they’re confident both are still improving. Brown boosted his 3-point shooting from just 25.8 percent as a rookie to 34.4 last season. His scoring doubled to 8.9 points a game and he showed ability as a pick-and-roll distributor.

“We’re definitely in the win-now, but when you add both those guys there’s still a development cycle to both,” Marks said. “Making this trade certainly helps us right in the present, but it also helps us down the road.”

With Brown making just $1.6 million, the Nets declined their $5 million option on Garrett Temple. The 34-year-old signed with Chicago. … Undrafted rookie guard Jordan Bowden (Tennessee) will sign an Exhibit 10 deal to go to camp with the Nets.

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Nets looking for Bruce Brown to be a defensive stopper

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