Despite thumb surgery, Pistons' Bruce Brown ready to hitch ride on NBA restart

Rod Beard
The Detroit News

After more than a month of downtime during the COVID-19 pandemic, there was no better time for Bruce Brown to get himself right. The pause in the NBA season, paired with the uncertainty of when — or if — it will resume left the second-year Pistons guard with an opportunity to have thumb surgery and have time to recuperate without missing playing time.

Brown had been having issues with his right thumb all season but had been playing through the pain by having his thumb taped heavily.

He had surgery in late April to replace a ligament and he says he should be fully recuperated in a couple more weeks.

Bruce Brown

“If the season was to start, I'll be back in a few weeks. I think my timeline was like six weeks,” Brown said Friday via conference call. “I had it taped and a hard surface behind it just in case I got hit. When I got hit, it hurt really bad, but I just played through it. You know, I'm tough, so I didn't really pay much attention to it and it didn't limit me doing anything.

“Maybe it kind of helped my shooting out a little bit too. It was cool for me.”

During the pandemic, Brown said he has been working out and staying in shape, and that if the season resumed in the near term, he’d be ready to play in a few weeks. In all likelihood, if the season restarted, the league would have a mini-training camp for about that long, so the timeline worked for Brown’s surgery.

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A big benefit for Brown was finding a gym where he could do some basketball activities and stay fit. In the early stages of the quarantine, he went back to his hometown of Boston, which helped. Many NBA players who were relegated to their homes didn’t have that luxury and will have a bigger adjustment to returning to game shape.

“When I was in Boston, they would open the gym for me, so I was working out with a ball, running, doing sprints, doing everything to try to stay in shape,” he said. “Now, since I’ve had the surgery, I got a medical waiver to go into the (Pistons’) facility, so I’ve been working out there every day and doing my rehab.”

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Whether the NBA season resumes could be decided in the next few weeks, but Brown said he’s fine whether the league decides to cancel the season or to finish, with the Pistons’ having 16 games left in the regular season, which was suspended on March 11 after Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert became the first player to test positive for COVID-19.

The Pistons had just finished playing their game in Philadelphia when the news broke.

Things haven’t been the same since. Brown recounted the night that everything changed.

“In Philly, during the game, we were hearing that stuff might happen and then we found out on the bench during the game that Rudy Gobert had it and just the speculation of what was going to happen after,” he said. “Then we got back to the locker room after the game and they told us everything that was going on and what we were supposed to do…

“So, it was really crazy. It came out of nowhere; I didn't expect it to go down this fast.”

The world is changed forever and what it's uncertain how a new normal will impact the sports landscape. Beyond the financial considerations, there’s the uncertainty of what things will look like, both from a player and a fan perspective.

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Whenever the NBA resumes, there likely won’t be any fans in the stands, which will create an odd effect, potentially where there will have to be some kind of artificial noise piped into gyms to make them seem more … normal.  

“Definitely if we played in an arena, it’d be a little weird, but I feel like it would just be like practice. There’s nobody there; it’s just us,” Brown said. “So, it would be cool. I'll be fine with it myself. I don't really mind but you obviously love the fans — and the way I play, I feed off the fans’ energy. So, it’d be interesting for sure.”

Twitter: @detnewsRodBeard