Troy Brown Jr. is waiting for the right time to correct the mistake.
Thursday night might have been Brown’s first baby step on the road to relevancy.
Brown, the Washington Wizards’ 2018 first-round draft pick, made his first career start in place of the injured Trevor Ariza in the team’s 113-108 loss to the Denver Nuggets.
“When you sit on the bench, you kind of sit there and take it all in,” Brown said. “But when you get thrown out there, you just go out there and play.”
A few weeks ago, Brown was bouncing back and forth between the G League and the end of the Wizards’ bench. As his minutes have increased, there has been at least one callback to that all-American plaque — Wednesday night at Chicago’s United Center, when the public address announcer repeatedly referred to him as Tony. Inside the Wizards’ locker room, his teammates not only know the rookie’s name, but they are happy to celebrate his early achievements.
“He did excellent,” Bradley Beal said after Brown’s start. “He has been constantly growing. It is just a matter of him just getting more minutes.”
While Brown, 19, also got the “Tony Brown” treatment earlier this season in Madison Square Garden, Coach Scott Brooks’s willingness to start him is telling.
Brown played as the starting small forward over veterans and pending free agents Wesley Johnson and Sam Dekker. He didn’t simply step onto the floor with the starters and return to the bench when the game grew tight to allow a more seasoned player to take over. Brown logged a career-high 33 minutes and played the entire third quarter, which was the team’s only winning period. As Washington scored 32 points on 61.9 percent shooting, Brown connected on his four attempts.
“End of the first half, I didn’t shoot the ball very well,” Brown said. “So, I just tried to come out and be aggressive and just make plays.”
Brown returned to the court for the final seven minutes, along with second-year player Thomas Bryant, as the Wizards cut the deficit to one possession. Although Bryant missed a potential tying three in the closing seconds, there was a benefit for both young players in playing clutch minutes.
“He played with a really great effort. I think it was a great experience for him,” Tomas Satoransky said of Brown. “He wasn’t afraid to attack the basket, and it was a big experience against a great team like Denver. It was very useful for the future and I think it will help him. I think he did a good job.”
The Wizards (30-43) are staying competitive even as their playoff hopes wane. Beal presumably wouldn’t have led the team in minutes, as usual, during the loss to the Nuggets if the team wasn’t trying to win. However, on Thursday the Wizards revealed their willingness to preview a larger role for Brown next season. By then, maybe more people will know his name.
“I told him in the beginning of the year, you are going to see a lot of stuff throughout this year,” Beal said, sharing his advice to Brown. “And one thing I always tell him is, ‘It is easy to just get caught up in the negativity, but the more positive you stay and the more ready you stay, your name will eventually be called,’ and sure enough, it was called and he performed.”
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