With the Utah Jazz’s decision Thursday not to match the Washington Wizards‘ two-year, partially guaranteed offer to restricted free agent Dee Brown, Washington had a late addition to its presummer league minicamp.
Brown, who will enter his second NBA season and third year as a pro, was one of 14 players practicing with the Wizards in preparation for next week’s action in the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas.
And after spending the last year playing professionally for Turkey’s Galatasaray Cafe Crown, returning to the NBA hardwood was a welcome feeling for Brown.
“I’m so happy,” Brown said. “It was a blessing for me. I understand their point guard situation, so I was very excited when the opportunity came my way.”
After a college career in which he led Illinois to the NCAA championship game as a junior in 2005 and depart in 2006 as the winningest player in school history, Utah selected him with the 46th overall pick of the NBA Draft. But Brown averaged just 1.9 points and 1.7 assists in 49 games as a rookie.
The Jazz tendered him an offer before last season, but rather than spending the majority of another season watching from the bench, Brown - who often endured criticism for his poor shooting - chose to go overseas.
“A lot of people thought I was down and out, but I went over there to work on my game,” Brown said. “I’m really just blessed to play basketball for a living. I took full advantage of the opportunity to go over there…. I worked on everything. You hear the knocks people say about you, but I just used that to get better.”
Brown sharpened his shooting skills in Turkey, and with the majority of his teammates unable to speak English, he said he had to quickly learn to communicate and lead effectively despite limitations.
While averaging 12.3 points a game for Cafe Crown, Brown remained plugged into the NBA, watching nearly every game that was broadcast in Turkey. He maintained the belief that after a year overseas, he would return to the league.
“It never went out of my mind,” Brown said. “A lot actually play a lot of years in the league sitting on the bench and don’t get the experience of playing. So going over there and getting a lot of minutes and the chance to work on my game - because I do have a lot of things to improve on my game - I just kept working and had faith I’d come back.”
Despite receiving an inquiry from Wizards management on draft night, Brown didn’t expect Washington to continue to pursue him. He even made plans to play for Detroit’s summer league squad.
Then came the Wizards’ offer on Wednesday.
Brown and the Wizards believe both parties find themselves in the ideal situation. In Brown, the Wizards have a quick, young, change-of-pace point guard to groom behind three-time All-Star Gilbert Arenas and 12th-year veteran Antonio Daniels.
“He will give us a different look at the point guard position. He’s quick and plays with high energy, and that’s something we lacked last year,” Wizards president Ernie Grunfeld said. “He will be a good help to us.”
Brown said he welcomes the opportunity to learn from Arenas and Daniels while further improving his game and added he’s ready to contribute in whatever way the Wizards ask.
“My role is just going to be play hard, try to change the pace of the game [and] defend the smaller point guards in the league. It’s all about team and team basketball,” Brown said. “Whatever Coach [Eddie] Jordan wants me to do. I’m just going to come out here every day, play hard, be a professional and do whatever Coach wants me to do.”
With the addition of Brown, the Wizards will have six players in Las Vegas - including third-year forward Andray Blatche, second-year players Nick Young, Dominic McGuire and Oleksiy Pecherov and rookie center JaVale McGee - who will be on their roster next season.
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