Brown scrounges for shot to stick with Pistons

Rod Beard
The Detroit News

Orlando, Fla. — Much of the NBA universe spent last weekend ogling at the free-agent frenzy that was highlighted by Kevin Durant’s decision to join the Warriors.

While massive contract numbers floating around are head-spinning (Mike Conley got $139 million from the Grizzlies) and many of the moves are voluntary, there’s another layer of players who become involuntary nomads.

Such is the case with Pistons guard Lorenzo Brown.

Brown had a pair of 10-day contracts with the Pistons last season and is on a non-guaranteed deal for this season.

And while the team’s attention was on getting a backup point guard in the draft and through free agency — the Pistons drafted versatile wing Michael Gbinije and agreed to terms with Ish Smith — Brown continued to grind.

“I try not to think about it,” Brown said. “I had a conversation with Stan before the Summer League started and he said he wanted me to show what my defensive side looked like. I feel like I’ve done a pretty good job showing I can play pretty good defense at each position right now.”

Brown has made a statement in Summer League — he had 19 points and six steals Monday, and 13 points and four assists Tuesday. He’s settled into his role, which has become bigger after injuries to Gbinije and second-year guard Darrun Hilliard for the remainder of the week.

“Those are the guys that are under the radar but can make your team a lot better,” said Pistons associate coach Bob Beyer, who is running the Summer League team. “In this free-agent frenzy, everyone gets caught in the names out there. Whoever gets our third point-guard position is going to be a valuable piece for our team.

“What Lorenzo has done is clearly taking advantage of his opportunity.”

While Brown wasn’t slated to be a major focus, he’s carved his own way to being in consideration to be the third point guard.

“He’s played, really, really well — probably over the three games, he’s been our best player,” coach Stan Van Gundy said. “He’s certainly making his case, no question about it.”

There’s a fine art to being effective without being a ball hog. And the first three games, Brown is showing can be trusted.

“He’s scoring from outside and inside and he’s an aggressive scoring point guard, like the point guards we have on our team,” Pistons wing Stanley Johnson said. “In terms of fit, I think he’ll be good. He’s playing amazing right now and he has to keep that up for us to be successful here.”

After being drafted by the Timberwolves in the second round in 2013, Brown toiled, going to the 76ers a free agent that season and bouncing between their D-League affiliate and the parent team.

He signed with the Pistons for less than a month in 2014 and had a couple 10-day contracts with the Timberwolves and Suns in 2015. After his second 10-day deal with the Pistons, he was released, then brought back for the postseason.

“I always go back to when he joined us right at the end and we used him for the playoffs,” Beyer said. “Just being around our guys and getting a better understanding (was good for him). He has a good comfort level where his game is right now and he’s doing everything we’re asking him to do and he’s playing within himself. He’s not trying to do too much”

With his time on the team, Brown also has gained respect of his teammates. After the season, they went to bat for him with Van Gundy to keep him around.

“Stan told me a couple of guys came and said something to him about me — so just to have that being done for me was a pretty big deal,” Brown said. “I’m just here to work; I’ve been through it before.”

Twitter @RodBeard