12.31.2014

Dee Brown No Dinosaur



January 27, 1999

Dee Brown No Dinosaur

   TORONTO - When the fans in Boston last saw Dee Brown, he was knocking down 3-pointers against the Mavericks at a record clip. Soon thereafter, he was gone, exiled, or so it seemed, to a city that takes its curling as seriously as its basketball, to a team that won 16 games last season.

He couldn't be happier.

He still wears No. 7, but the familiar Reeboks have been replaced by Adidases. He's now one of many veterans on an intriguing roster, not one of the holdovers from a previous, disgraced regime. He feels an excitement that he hasn't felt in some time. "I haven't felt this way since I got drafted," he said before last night's 106-88 exhibition loss to the Celtics. "When I got traded, I was just happy to have a chance to play again. But also because someone wanted me. Toronto wanted me. A team wants you here, and to be a part of what they're trying to do, instead of being a leftover."

It didn't go well for Brown last season. He was originally pumped to play for Rick Pitino but soon found out that he was not in the coach's plans. Pitino wanted to go with youth, and Brown, on that team, was an AARP candidate. He played hard enough and well enough to be renamed team captain, but that mattered little when the bell rang. He says he has no hard feelings, and you almost believe him. "Rick's attitude is all basketball all the time," Brown said. "He lives and breathes it. Some players and coaches are like that. Some aren't. I enjoy it and I come to work and I play it, but that's that. I leave it there. I can't  take it home with me. I caught myself doing that a lot, and it got me frustrated. That wasn't me. You play the game as hard as you can and then you go home and relax and come back the next day and work on your mistakes. How much more simple can you get?"

When he left, a small part of the Celtics' history went with him. There is no one remaining from the halcyon days of the Big Three (except broadcaster Cedric Maxwell) or from the days when playoffs were automatic. It actually meant something to him to wear the green and be the captain. He never developed as many thought he would - remember his sensational performance as a rookie against the Pistons in Game 6 of their playoff series in 1991? - and his last three years in Boston were not without complaint or controversy. He demanded to be traded when he saw through the fraudulence that permeated the last year of M.L. Carr's regime. He took a lot of heat for that, from the public, from Larry Bird, but no one else was as forthcoming. It cost him his captaincy, some playing time, and some support. But he was right.

"M.L. was taking a bullet for the ball club," he said. "After a while, you saw it. It wasn't said. It wasn't spoken. But you look back at what happened and what it came down to, and that's what it was." Last year wasn't much better. Pitino told reporters that Brown was deathly ill from the flu when he was anything but. There was a report that Pitino threw him out of practice. He became a seldom-used sub and saw his Boston career come to an end one night in Sacramento when he and Chauncey Billups were held out of a game after the trade to Toronto had been completed.

Did he regret that it came down the way it did in Boston?

"Rick wanted younger players," he said. "It wasn't that I wasn't performing. I came in great shape. I performed on the court when I got on the court. I did everything to be named captain. I feel I did my job on and off the court. "I went through stretches where I didn't play, and you understand that. It was frustrating, but Rick isn't the shy type. He told me he was going to play the young guys and that I didn't have a role on the team. I just kept practicing hard."

Last night Brown got his first glimpse at his former team since being traded 11 months ago. He still tries to keep in touch with Pervis Ellison ("I guess I won't be seeing him this year, huh?") and Dana Barros ("He was in great shape last year, too"). He noted with amusement that Travis Knight must be feeling better these days: "He gets the big pay raise that he wasn't going to get in LA. Then, after a year, he gets to go back there. How happy is he?"

He said last night's game wasn't that special; he'll feel differently Friday when he returns to the FleetCenter for the first time since the trade and even more so for the Feb. 5 season opener when the games actually mean something.

"The last time I played there, I had that big game [ against Dallas] ," he said. "So going back there would mean something if the old guys were still there. It would have been different if I had been with Pitino a long time, like seven or eight years. But I was only there four years."

Uh, Dee, it was four months.

"It seemed like a long time," he said.

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