Comfort, stability brought Shannon Brown back to Phoenix

PHOENIX — The wake of the New Orleans Hornets matching the Suns’ offer to Eric Gordon has settled, and in a free agency period shallow in shooting guard depth, Phoenix reacted by going with someone they know.

On Wednesday, the Suns officially inked Shannon Brown to a two-year, $7 million deal with the second year of the contract partially guaranteed, and the move, while criticized to a degree, is all about stability. The shooting guard with six years of experience under his belt had a career year in 2011-12, and he pointed out on Wednesday that it came despite a bumpy first half of the season.

“The season didn’t start off the way I wanted it to but it ended well, you know, for me personally,” Brown said. “A couple games we needed, we could’ve gotten over the hump. We couldn’t do it, but it felt good at the end of the season.

“I think it’s great,” he said of returning to Phoenix, “everything about it, the franchise, the city. I feel good when I’m here.”

He showed that to the management, too. Brown kept his face in US Airways Center during the offseason, working out with the Suns’ training staff in between spending time with his wife and kids.

President of basketball operations Lon Babby said he and the front office got the sense Brown wanted to return.

“He spent a lot of time downstairs with our trainers in the offseason and actually came up and saw Lance and me one day, and really, really communicated his strong desire to be here,” Babby said. “That’s a big factor with us, obviously, to have players here who have a burning passion to be here and be part of our program.

“He had a wonderful second half of the year last year, that’s really when we were playing our best basketball,”  Babby added. “We’re hoping he will continue to improve.”

The opportunity to return to a familiar place was important to Brown. It’s a fitting feeling for a player whose consistency and style of play is at its best when he’s not worrying about playing time or overthinking. And Brown’s place on a team that needed a scoring guard after the Hornets retained Gordon made the guarantee of playing time a key factor as well.

Back to that word — stability.

After the season, Brown said he’d want more than a one-year contract. As a player who’s made a career of short-term deals, even the second year being partially guaranteed was comforting to the 26-year-old.

“The two previous years I had played on one-year contracts or contracts that were my options — I opted out because of what was told to me,” he said. “Two years with a little bit of guaranteed money is always great. But moreso, it’s just being able to play with the same group of guys for a number of years so we can get some camaraderie with what’s going on so we can come out and play to the best of our abilities as a team. That’s huge when you talk making it to the playoffs and winning championships.”

Minutes will be there for Brown. And he admitted what we all saw from him last season, when his production jumped from his season averages of 11 points and 2.7 rebounds per game to 15.8 and 3.7 rebounds per game in starts.

“I think this is more of an opportunity for me to showcase my abilities with more minutes,” Brown said when asked about his role. “I think with more minutes comes more production in my case. I think I’ve proven that. But actions speak louder than words. I just have to go out and show it.”

So is he a starter?

“I would like to (start),” Brown said. “I think I have that ability to go out there and start the game off the right way. Like I said, with minutes or continuity … you can go back and look, every game I’ve started … my production is up.”

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Brown on playing with a younger group of Suns: “We got a bunch of young guys who are energetic, who are ready to get out there and battle. We got a lot of competitors that we picked up, and that’ll do nothing but help us out. When it’s time to grind, when it’s crunch time, when it’s time to go out there and get your nose bloody out there, there are some guys out there that won’t mind putting their faces in there.”

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