Shannon Brown may have collected his second ring in L.A. on Tuesday night, but even among the Lakers’ faithful, he’s known much more for his crowd-pleasing, above-the-rim exploits than for any meaningful contributions to the team’s back-to-back championships.
And he’d really like that to change.
"I really don’t want nobody to mention my dunks no more," Brown said after the game.
Given Brown’s "up-ability" (Phil Jackson’s word, not mine), that probably won’t ever happen. But if he continues to play like he did in the Lakers’ opener, people will at least have something to talk about besides his dunks.
Brown not only played the entire fourth quarter of the Lakers’ 112-110 win over the Rockets, but he also was largely responsible for the team’s comeback from a 15-point second-half deficit. Not only did Brown score 14 of his 16 points in the final 12 minutes, but 12 of them came from 3-point range, including back-to-back bombs that gave L.A. its largest lead of the game at 99-91.
And you get the feeling that he actually prefers making the highlights this way.
"It’s very important to me (to be known as a complete player)," Brown said. "I don’t just go in the gym and work on dunks. In the summer time, I don’t go in the gym and work on dunks. I don’t just work on running and jumping. I work on every aspect of my game. I appreciate everything that everybody says about my athleticism and all of that. But I’m much more than a dunker."
It helps that Brown is finally healthy. He was nursing a thumb injury for the second half of the 2009-10 season and the playoffs, limiting his effectiveness and leading many observers to wonder whether the Lakers had the desire (and the financial wherewithal) to bring him back.
Despite receiving better offers (both in terms of dollars, as well as the opportunity for playing time) from some non-contenders, Brown remained committed to the Lakers. And when the feeling proved to be mutual, Brown went to work on the part of the game that his coaches have been imploring him to work on since he came into the league in 2006.
"It’s something I think Shannon’s probably been drilled with for a number of years since he’s been playing the NBA game: You need to develop an outside shot," Jackson said. "He’s a great driver. Everybody knows he’s got some tremendous up-ability and goes to the basket and can finish strong. But everybody says the shooting’s got to improve. He’s worked on it. It’s significant it looks as good as it was."
Said Brown: "Coach has been telling me ever since I got here to shoot the ball, instead of trying to do something extra, do what the defense allows me to do, I guess. I came out, and I shot the ball. Teammates kept finding me, and they kept falling."
If they keep falling, Jackson could find himself with a surplus of options in the backcourt — something that wasn’t the case last season. Between newcomer Steve Blake and the new-look Brown, the Lakers’ backcourt rotation appears to be five-deep (assuming the Lakers get the contributions they’re expecting out of Sasha Vujacic, who didn’t even get off the bench Tuesday as Jackson chose to ride the hot duo of Blake and Brown down the stretch).
Not that he’s complaining about having to find minutes for all those guards, mind you.