Charlotte Bobcats guard Shannon Brown had a simple, yet stark, question for one of his coaches a couple of weeks ago:
Why don't you like me?
Brown now says he was joking, but assistant coach Dave Hanners had a serious reply. He liked Brown just fine. It was Brown's game Hanners didn't like.
“I said Coach (Larry Brown) is asking you to do certain things, and you're not doing them,” Hanners recalled. “Most guys are misguided about how to do well. They think, ‘If I score 15 or 18 points, Coach has to play me!'
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“We have Jason Richardson and Adam Morrison and a whole lot of guys who can make shots. We need Shannon to do something else to help.”
Apparently that registered, explaining how Brown slipped into the rotation Saturday. He played 13 minutes of solid defense, mostly on Miami Heat star Dwyane Wade (5-of-15 from the field), in the Bobcats' first victory this season.
So it figures that Brown will get more chances tonight at home against the Detroit Pistons.
There was a time in training camp when Shannon Brown looked in danger of being cut, despite a guaranteed contract. The best thing in his favor was the boss' faith; managing partner Michael Jordan likes Brown's potential.
Yet he was blowing this chance, playing out of control with quick shots and risky passes.
“When you see something you want that bad,” Brown said, “you can push too hard and sometimes I've just got to slow down.”
For Shannon Brown to play, he needs to demonstrate enough playmaking skills and judgment to fill in as the Bobcats' third point guard. That isn't the most natural thing for a guy who grew up an explosive athlete and scorer.
So Hanners saw a breakthrough in a decision Brown made against the Heat. His teammates were running, looking for a fast-break advantage, but Brown recognized they didn't have a numbers advantage in transition. So he backed off and called a set play.
“Two weeks ago,” Hanners said, “he would have done something to get himself a shot.”
Jordan was all smiles Saturday, in part because his faith in Brown seemed justified. Brown is a regular in the summer at Attack Athletics, the private gym in Chicago run by Tim Grover, Jordan's longtime athletic trainer.
Brown says anywhere from 10 to 40 NBA players are at that gym each summer day, for perhaps the best pickup games in the world. Jordan still plays in some of those games, and took note of Brown's potential.
Asked what Brown needs to succeed, Jordan turned toward a reporter and extended his right arm in a hugging motion.
“Confidence,” Jordan said. “People believing in him.”
That confidence was dented the past two seasons, with the Cleveland Cavaliers and Chicago Bulls both discarding him. The Cavaliers made him a late first-round pick in 2006, only to trade him to the Bulls last February. Chicago didn't have much use for him, so Brown signed with the Bobcats this summer.
So if he was playing a bit too frantic and self-conscious at training camp, it's easy to see why.
“Three different teams three different years and not playing when you felt you should be playing,” said Brown, a former All-Big Ten player at Michigan State. “When you're used to being a starter in high school and college, and you end up in the (developmental) league, that's hard. It gets you down.
“The thing I've learned about confidence is you can never, ever afford to lose it. You can have all the ability, all the skill, and without confidence, you're shot.”