Wolves’ Brown used to road, but not weary

Guard Lorenzo Brown has spent most of his pro career so far bouncing between the Philadelphia 76ers and the NBA Developmental League. He signed a 10-day contract with Minnesota this week, however, and says he's hungrier than ever to prove himself. 

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MINNEAPOLIS — While the rest of his new (and some old) teammates went through their various pregame routines Wednesday, Lorenzo Brown sat in front of his locker, wolfing down a bowl of chicken noodle soup followed by some assorted fruit.

It had been a wild 24 hours, and it was just getting started. Hours before, the guard had signed a 10-day deal with the Timberwolves. Before that, he’d just wrapped up a seven-game road trip with the NBA Developmental League’s Grand Rapids Drive.

"Man," Brown said. "I’ve been on the road for, like, two weeks already. I’m a little tired, but it’s nothing."

Hungry, too. "They don’t have that in the D-League," Brown said with a smile, referring to the Minnesota training table.

Brown’s nook in the corner of the Target Center’s home dressing room has had about as many occupants during this injury-riddled season as the Loews Minneapolis Hotel across the street. Corey Brewer occupied it till he was traded. Then Jeff Adrien, signed via a roster hardship, followed by Miroslav Raduljica, who was waived Wednesday at the end of his second 10-day deal.

Its latest tenant is a familiar one, having spent training camp here as a 2013 second-round draft pick.

"I’m more hungry than ever right now," Brown said, this time in the figurative sense. "This past year, I’ve been working and trying to get myself better and prepare myself for this moment right here.

"Hopefully," he added, "it’ll work out this time."

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Whether it’s in Minnesota or with another NBA club, the 6-foot-5, 220-pound point man’s goal is to stick. He’s only with the Wolves because of Ricky Rubio’s prolonged absence, but a good showing in his first regular-season action with the club would boost his stock.

So far, so good. Brown’s first NBA game since last March was also his best.

The North Carolina State product looked like a different player than the one who played 26 games for Philadelphia last year, scoring a career-high 11 points (his first-ever double-digit game), handing out three assists, getting the Wolves in the correct offensive sets and playing the entire fourth quarter in a 110-98 victory over Boston.

"Considering the guy went through just a walk-through today," coach and president Flip Saunders said, "he was great."

It was Saunders, of course, who drafted Brown 52nd overall two summers ago. Minnesota kept him around till close to the 15-man roster deadline but opted to keep Robbie Hummel and waive Brown.

The 76ers picked him up, and he averaged 2.5 points, 1.6 assists and 8.6 minutes per game in 26 appearances while bouncing back and forth between Philadelphia and its D-League affiliate in Delaware.

He’s a different player today, he says.

"I feel like I’m a little more focused, a little more skilled than I was and a little smarter than I was before," said Brown, who holds career D-League averages of 17.1 points, 5.1 assists, 4.8 rebounds and 31.5 minutes a contest. "Just what they told me I needed to improve on, I feel like I’ve done that so far."

Said Saunders, a product of the Continental Basketball Association: "I always have a soft spot for players that have played in the minor leagues, because I know what they put in there and the commitment they put in there. Most of those guys get an opportunity, they’re going to be tough, they’re going to be hard-nosed, they’re going to pick up (defensively), they’re going to do exactly what the coach wants, because it’s their opportunity."

Brown’s connection with this particular Wolves roster goes back to his days at NC State. Minnesota assistant Sidney Lowe, then the Wolfpack’s head coach, recruited Brown and coached him for a year before returning to the NBA ranks.

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How long Brown will be here is unclear. His minutes Wednesday were a product of Rubio’s injury and Mo Williams’ absence for personal reasons. Williams should be back soon, and Rubio could return by the end of next week, Saunders said.

But if Brown can produce the way he did when called upon Wednesday, he’ll increase his chance for longevity — whether that’s with the club that drafted him or elsewhere.

"I think he played great," rookie Andrew Wiggins said. "He got the team open shots and executed down the stretch."

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