6.22.2017

Dee Brown Wants to Fit In




October 12, 1991
The intended message is clearly no longer, "I want to fit in."

Dee Brown is past that. Heck, he leaped over that in a single bound a long time ago, then did a handspring and dunked the ball lefthanded with his eyes closed for good measure.

Last night in the Celtics' exhibition opener, Brown was not only the starting point guard, he was the only true point guard. Brian Shaw was in silk street clothes with a knee sprain, and John Bagley was beside him in a knit ensemble with an eye infection. 

The two veterans had a right to wonder if this young star has leaped over them, too.

It's not just his numbers, although 18 points, 13 assists, 7 rebounds, 3 steals and 1 turnover in 38 minutes constitute a dossier anyone would be glad to claim.

It's also the excitement level. Brown is dealing with a crowd that is already ga-ga over him, yet he doesn't disappoint. He builds on his own energy. "I'm trying to establish myself as one of the top point guards in the league," he said. "I'm putting pressure on myself. We know Brian isn't going to be around for a while, and when he gets back, it doesn't matter who starts.

"That's not a question with me. I can be a backup and get things done. Hey, my goals are high."

The transition from rookie to second-year pro can't be emphasized enough. The rookie looks to the bench when he makes a stupid mistake. The second-year pro doesn't make stupid mistakes.

"The confidence is there," reported Magic Johnson. "There's no question he makes that team so much better.

"You can see the difference from last year. He doesn't make the silly mistakes like last year, like jumping up with nowhere to go. He didn't do that one time tonight and he did it in a few games last season."

Last season Brown wouldn't have been willing to take the ball, eschew calling a play and take it to the baseline, stop, switch hands in midflight, then pop the ball through.

"I don't think I would have considered the extra little move last year," he said. "I wasn't relaxed enough. When the coach starts telling you, 'You're thinking too much,' then you aren't playing on instinct.

"Now? I don't look over there the bench if I mess up anymore. All it does is take your mind off the game. I can hear the yelling without seeing all the facial expressions and hand-waving that's going with it."

There were some facial expressions and hand-waving directed his way last night. Coach Chris Ford made it clear to his young point guard he was not entirely pleased with his performance.

"I expect more penetration from him," said Ford. "He needs to get the ball moving more, taking it to the hole. He's got to be more assertive in directing the guys. He still has plenty of room for improvement."

This is how it will be. Ford will be hard on Brown because he doesn't want him to be satisfied. He is aware how fast this young player's popularity is spiraling, and he doesn't want it to spiral out of control.

"I got big quick," Brown said. "How am I handling it? I think I'm handling it the same way.

"It's just sometimes you don't know what to expect.

"I did that mall thing and that got very out of hand. You go to sign a few autographs and there's hundreds of people."

The people want a piece of Dee Brown. They want him to be big, and bigger, and bigger still.

"It's OK," said the second-year pro. "I know what they're expecting. I'm expecting some of it myself."

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