PHOENIX — To call Shannon Brown’s seven-year NBA career a journey would be an understatement.
The former Michigan State product has gone from first-round draft pick to D-Leaguer to two-time champion to super sub to late-season starter.
And that was all before the 2012-13 season even began.
Heading into last summer, Brown made it known that he didn’t want a one-year deal because signing that type of offer wouldn’t provide him any sense of job security. However, when he hit the open market the lack of long-term interest from other teams was rather apparent.
In July 2012, Brown ultimately re-signed with the Suns on a two-year deal worth $7 million, and it seemed to make at least some sense from both sides. Lon Babby and Co. failed to acquire bigger names like Eric Gordon and O.J. Mayo, and the veteran shooting guard frankly had no better alternatives.
A year later, though, it’s safe to say the $3.5 million devoted to Brown wasn’t exactly well spent.
Coming off a season in which he averaged a career-high 11.0 points per game — not to mention 15.8 points per game while starting the final 19 contests — Brown was thought to play a pivotal role offensively for the new-look Suns in 2012-13.
After scoring 11 or more points in eight of the team’s first 11 games, Brown was moved into the starting lineup by head coach Alvin Gentry — a place he stayed for 20 consecutive games (Nov. 21 – Dec. 29).
However, when Gentry was sent out the door on Jan. 20 and replaced by interim head coach Lindsey Hunter, the notion of winning now was replaced by the notion of developing to win later and Brown quickly became a casualty of the ideological shift.
While Brown came off the bench in each of Hunter’s first 12 games at the helm, his minutes slowly dwindled and so too did his production (only two games of 10 points or more). As the focus moved towards jump starting Wesley Johnson’s career in Phoenix, the 27-year-old found himself on the outside looking in on the Suns’ rotation by mid-February.
“Bitching about it ain’t going to do nothing,” Brown told the Arizona Republic’s Paul Coro on Feb. 25. “I definitely understand that this is a business. There’s no loyalty nowhere. People are going to play their guy, who they feel their guys are. That’s just the reality of it right now. It’s a tough situation that I have to get through.”
Over the last 29 games of the season, Brown received a DNP-Coach’s Decision 23 times. The Suns went 8-15 in those contests.
Although Brown opted to go into the off-season rather quietly despite his diminished role, it was hard for the veteran guard to completely hide all of his frustration as he went out the door.
“Yeah,” Brown said when asked if this was the toughest year of his career. “Me being six, seven years in with two championships and having to sit on the bench and watch us consistently lose was tough.” I learned a lot about myself, that I could pretty much play and make it through anything at this point. It was a good test for me.”
The real test might be the one posed to general manager Ryan McDonough this summer when deciding what to do with Brown’s final guaranteed year.
As has been noted time and time again about Brown, he can put the ball in the basket (10. 5 point per game on 42 percent shooting). He’s a volume shooter more so than a pure shooter, but when he’s on — like say for instance in the fourth quarter of wins against Charlotte and Cleveland back in November — he’s an asset to your team.
The problem, however, is that the 2012-13 version of Shannon Brown didn’t shoot well from three (27.7), was a net negative per 48 minutes, had his role redefined on three separate occasions and left with a rather bad taste in his mouth. Throw in the fact that drafting a shooting guard and contemplating Johnson’s future are likely higher priorities on McDonough’s list, and it becomes clear that Brown’s status in purple and orange will be put on the back burner for the time being.
“I don’t know what they’re going to do,” said Brown. “I don’t know their thought process and how they’re making the moves that they’re making. I’m an individual, and I need to worry about myself. That’s why when I step out on that court I’m always going to give 1000 percent and stay as professional as possible.
“Things didn’t work out well, but I’m not going to stress over it or force anything. I’m going to let things go and take their natural course.”
While Brown insisted he’s already put this season behind him, it’s hard to avoid his late-season disappearance given that for now he’s still contractually a Phoenix Sun. When asked if he still wanted to be a part of the franchise moving forward, he didn’t quite say goodbye but he didn’t express any long-term hopes of staying in the Valley, either.
“It is what it is,” Brown said of his feelings on his basketball-playing future. “No matter what team I’m playing for and no matter where I’m at, I’m going to give 1000 percent and my all every time I step out on a basketball court, whatever the jersey is, whatever the city or the state.”