PHOENIX — Throughout his NBA career, Shannon Brown has been known as one thing: a world-class athlete and dunker.
From the early part of his career when he bounced around between four teams in three years to the past two and a half seasons when he established himself on a Lakers team that won championships it was all about the dunks.
Despite those rings, even today Brown is perhaps best known for the “Let Shannon Dunk” campaign that aimed to get him invited to last year’s slam dunk contest.
Now as a member of the Phoenix Suns, Brown has a chance to prove he’s more than just a dunker.
He tried to do that last season, when he started the season hot from behind the arc, but his three-point shooting percentage dropped precipitously every month from October until March before an April uptick as Brown went from shooting the three at a 45.6 and 39.5 percent clip in November and December to 23.1 and 22.2 percent in February and March.
“I just turned into a jump shooter,” Brown said after his first workout with the Suns. “I was stuck on proving to everyone that I wasn’t just a dunker, just an athlete that when my shots were falling I just stuck with it instead of becoming a basketball player, so that’s what I’ve got to do. Nothing happened, I just turned into a jump shooter instead of a basketball player.”
Brown will see plenty of 3-point shots in a Suns offense that traditionally relies on long balls to space the defense, but now he has his opportunity to prove he’s more than an athlete, something that did not come so easily on a Lakers squad with so many established stars.
The fit was ideal on both sides, as Brown was made to run with Steve Nash and is expected to boost the defense with his physical gifts.
“We came to a mutual agreement that I’m thankful they wanted me here and I wanted to come here,” Brown said. “Their style of play fits how I play basketball. I love everything about it and we made it happen.
“It feels good that guys wanted me here and I wanted to be here to be a part of something that’s on the rise. It just feels good.”
In turn, Suns executive Lon Babby complimented Brown for being “willing to bet on himself” by signing just a one-year deal, with the insinuation being Brown feels he will perform well enough to sign a lucrative long-term deal next offseason.
As Brown attempts to take the next step in his career, luck would have it he’s got a fellow former Charlotte Bobcat reserve standing in his way of a starting job.
That would be the Suns’ incumbent starting shooting guard Jared Dudley, who rode the pine with Brown during the 2008-09 season before the Bobcats shipped both players to the Pacific Division.
Dudley said at the end of last season he fully expected to be the Suns’ starting shooting guard so long as they did not bring in an All-Star or an established veteran at the two guard spot that would be an obvious choice to start. With a mere 16 starts under his belt in 256 career games, that Brown is not.
Although JD believes he is the right guy to start, he welcomes the competition from Brown nonetheless.
“For me, first of all I never want anything handed to me,” Dudley said. “You have to work for it, and how I feel is the best person should always play. In the NBA it’s not always like that. If he deserves to start, he should start.”
Three years later both former Bobcats find themselves at similar points of their careers, although Dudley arrives with the security of a five-year deal whereas Brown has just the one season on his contract.
Both players want to prove themselves as legitimate starting NBA shooting guards, rather than just energy guys off the bench who can provide a spark as they both have mainly been throughout their careers.
Dudley in some ways is the anti-Brown, in that he has used his smarts, basketball IQ and a lethal shooting stroke to make up for his athletic shortcomings. JMZ celebrated making 10 dunks all of last season whereas Brown routinely throws down 10 dunks in a season that could lead SportsCenter’s top plays.
The Suns would have a hell of a two guard if they could combine the strengths of Dudley and Brown, but as things stand they should deploy an effective shooting guard rotation with both players on a mission to establish themselves as starter-caliber players.
- Brown on playing with Nash: “It’s unbelievable. I played a little five-on-five with him the other day, and the way he was finding me, finding other people it was unbelievable. He was tricking me, he was tricking his teammates, everybody was getting tricked and the ball was going the other way.”
- Brown on what he brings to the Suns: “I think I bring a little bit of defense, a little bit of toughness, just going out there getting physical a little bit, awareness on the court. I do have two championship rings, so I was part of that and hopefully some of that can rub off on the guys.”
- Gentry on Brown: “I think he’s a real athletic guy. Obviously he’s been on a winner and he knows what it takes to win championships. I just think he gives us another good athlete and I think he can become a very good defensive player, which is another think that was attractive to us, and just a good guy, I think he has some toughness that will also help our situation, so we’re excited about having him.”