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The maturing of Markel helping Nets in playoff push

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Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

The Nets had more faith in Markel Brown than anyone else. First of all they took him in the draft, buying the 44th pick from the Timberwolves for $1.1 million. They had him higher in their internal mock draft, ranking him 22nd. Why the disparity? The Nets put a higher value on four-year college players.

And now, with the team fighting for a playoff spot, their faith has been justified.  He's started 20 straight games (giving the Nets 60 games with rookies starting) and in the last three is averaging 13.7 points in an average of 34 minutes. He's shot 51.8 percent overall and 36.3 from deep. His staggering athleticism is permitting him to grab four boards per game as well.

Not bad for a guy who suffered through a broken hand and a bad case of a stomach bug early in the season.  Those maladies and some lost time hurt his development.  He played only 17 of the team's first 52 games, averaging 5.6 minutes. Since, he's played in each of the 21 games since, starting the past 20. Only one player taken after him, the Lakers 46th pick, Jordan Clarkson, has started more. Quite a few taken before him have started fewer.

Wednesday night was typical of the newly valued Brown. He first hit the deck hard in the first quarter, making a lot of Nets fans hearts skip a beat. But it was worse than it looked and he continued. Then, in the fourth he hurt his wrist in a fall, but continued to play.  That toughness, along with his defense, is what appeals to Lionel Hollins.He finished with 14 points, four rebounds, two assists and three steals in 34 minutes.

And Thursday morning, Lionel Hollins offered up a big compliment.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p>On WFAN, Lionel Hollins says of Markel Brown: &quot;I think we found our Tony Allen.&quot;</p>&mdash; Stefan Bondy (@SBondyNYDN) <a href="https://twitter.com/SBondyNYDN/status/583648421833244673">April 2, 2015</a></blockquote>
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Brown now sees himself as part of the team. "I feel like I belong," he said. "But I still feel like I have a lot left to show."

Brown has shown that sense of belonging off the court as well, joining up with the Nets in helping children with disabilities. The morning after he scored a career high 17 points vs the Lakers, he paid a visit to New York League for Early Learning’s (NYL) Greenpoint branch to spend time with pre-schoolers. .

He spent the morning interacting with and reading a book on basketball to about 40 preschoolers with disabilities at the school.