Near the start of this season, Pistons guard Bruce Brown approached the team’s public relations staff with a request. Yes, he played at the University of Miami for two years before being drafted by Detroit in 2018. But his roots had sprouted elsewhere. Boston was home.
So Brown requested that whenever he was in the starting lineup — at home or on the road — that it be made clear where he is from.
Now he is no longer introduced as Bruce Brown from the University of Miami. He is Bruce Brown from Boston, Mass. And before Friday night’s game at TD Garden, with about 60 friends and family members there to support him, that announcement meant even more.
“When they say I’m from Boston, it just makes me feel better,” Brown said. “I just want that to be known that that’s where I’m from. That’s where I was raised and I don’t want that to change.”
Brown, 23, wants to maintain a connection to this region that goes beyond a pregame introduction, however.
He was raised in the city but for two years attended high school at Wakefield through the Metropolitan Council for Educational Opportunity (METCO), a voluntary program that places Boston students in suburban public schools.
During basketball season, Brown used to wake up at 6 a.m. to catch a bus from Boston to Wakefield. After classes, he would go to basketball practice, and then the only bus available would bring him to the T, where he would take the Orange Line the full 19 stops from Oak Grove to Forest Hills before taking another bus to his home.
Then he would wake up the next morning and do it all over again.
“It was definitely a struggle,” Brown said. “I remember Mondays I didn’t even go to practice because I was too worn out from the weekend and just wanted to go home. So, it definitely takes a toll on your body.”
On Thursday, after the Pistons arrived in Boston, Brown surprised a group of 11 Wakefield METCO students with a $200 shopping spree at the Nike store on Newbury Street. He also gave them tickets to Friday’s game.
“They were like, ‘Wow, this is crazy. This has never happened to us before,’ ” Brown said, smiling. “It was just good to see a smile on their face and see them happy.”
Brown has played an important role for the Pistons this season. Going into the Pistons’ game Saturday against the Bulls, Brown had started 25 of 29 games and averaged 8.3 points, 4.4 rebounds, and 3.7 assists per game. Pistons coach Dwane Casey said that Brown has taken a “huge step” in his second pro season.
“He’s probably the best on-the-ball defender on our roster,” Casey said. “His basketball IQ is high and talking about establishing an identity, the position it starts with is his. He competes at a high level every night.”
Brown was drafted in large part because of his defense, but he knows that to truly become a standout he will have to become a capable shooter, too.
He struggled from beyond the 3-point arc during his rookie season. So, during the offseason, he restructured his shooting form, focusing on keeping the ball a bit more over his right shoulder than above his head. He said he did not attempt a 3-pointer or even a jump shot with this new form until July, as he focused more on getting adjusted to how it felt. The results have been promising, with his 3-point percentage jumping from 25.8 last season to 34.7.
On Friday night, after his introduction received an ovation, Brown made 1 of 2 3-pointers and finished with 9 points, 5 rebounds, and 5 assists. He said he studied plenty of Kemba Walker game film over the summer because the Celtics star had been such a challenging matchup for him, and on Friday, Walker had 2 points and 7 turnovers.
“His shooting is going to come,” Casey said of Brown. “I referred to him as a young [Raptors forward] Pascal Siakam. He had started 38 games and was shooting 13 or 14 percent from three and everybody was clamoring about that. Lo and behold, the young man worked his behind off. And Bruce is in the same position. Continue to work. Continue to do what you do.”