Detroit — What can Brown do for you?
If it’s Bruce Brown, the answer is becoming a bit more expansive for the Pistons. Brown, the second-year guard from Miami (Fla.) is more than just a defender, more than just an energy-and-hustle guard.
He’s becoming a versatile guard who can fill the stat sheet and facilitate the offense. Brown showed that in the final minutes of Friday’s preseason win over the Cleveland Cavaliers, with five points in the final two minutes, including the free throw that put the game out of reach with 10.6 seconds left.
The starting group has had trouble getting started at a regular-season pace, but Brown has been one of the bright spots with his play, including stints at point guard. On Friday, he had 15 points, five rebounds and seven assists and was a catalyst for the win in the final minutes.
“That’s what we were lacking at the end of the game the other night: the intensity, the hustle, the fire that Bruce brings to the table,” coach Dwane Casey said Monday. “He was the difference at the end of the game. He’s doing other things to compensate for teams disrespecting his shooting ability and he’s improved as a shooter.”
It hasn’t shown in the preseason, where Brown has shied away from 3-pointers; rather, he’s looked to drive the lane and create opportunities for others. It’s an extension of the work he did in Summer League, where he was tasked with initiating the offense and running the offense.
It’s translated to the preseason, but the next step is getting it to click in the regular season. So far, so good.
“Summer League was big for me because my confidence (now) is way better than last year. I believe in myself and I know what I can do,” Brown said. “I just think the game is starting to slow down for me. You can tell in making the right reads and playing my game.”
Entering training camp, there was a sentiment that maybe Luke Kennard could supplant Brown in the starting lineup, but all indications point to Brown retaining that spot, as he did for 56 games last season.
He’s earning Casey’s trust and despite his uncharacteristic numbers for a shooting guard — 4.3 points and just 26 percent on 3-pointers last season — he could be the security blanket on defense that keeps him there. As he showed Friday, his value can be more than just the traditional numbers and markers.
“Bruce set the tone for how he was going to play — and he played hard. That’s how we have to play,” Casey said. “He played the right way: (when he) didn’t have a basket, kicked it out and didn’t try to force it. That’s the way he has to be. He did a great job of being a three-way read.”
Casey said Monday that he’ll look at one of the final two preseason games and treat it as almost a regular-season game. That could be Tuesday against the Sixers, without sitting any starters and getting the rotations to his liking.
With the way he’s used the lineups in the first three exhibitions, it could expand to 10, but that won’t be the custom.
“That’s going to be hard to do that. it’s nine and the last two or three spots will be fluid. It behooves everybody on the roster to be prepared to play,” Casey said. “There’s nobody I wouldn’t feel comfortable putting out there on the floor. The regular rotation is eight or nine and maybe 10, but the 10th guy could be in there one night and the next night not.”
By some estimation, that could mean that Svi Mykhailiuk or Langston Galloway could be in line for regular minutes, but that could change, depending on the matchups, foul trouble or other factors.
Pistons at Sixers
► Tip-off: 7 p.m. Tuesday, Wells Fargo Center, Philadelphia
► TV/radio: NBATV/WWJ
► Outlook: The Pistons (2-1) finish the preseason with back-to-back road games, starting Tuesday. Derrick Rose (14.3 points) leads the team in scoring and Blake Griffin, who missed Friday’s win, likely will play only one of the final two games.