Bryce Brown’s path to the NBA has proven to be a unique one.
After not hearing his name called in the 2019 NBA draft and then playing two years in the G League with Maine and Westchester, Brown is now a prominently featured, sharp-shooting guard in the Long Island Nets’ modern offense.
After a slow start to the year for Long Island, the team has taken advantage of the standings reset after the “Showcase Cup” games. From the onset, however, the organizational culture the Nets thrive to achieve has made an impression on the 6’3” sharpshooter.
“[On] my first day what popped out to me was the team, my teammates, my coaches, how all of us have kind of created a bond pretty quickly,” he told NetsDaily in an exclusive interview. “I feel like these last few weeks we have been playing really good basketball and it has just come from Coach always preach[ing] from Day 1 what he wants and what matters at the next level, and that’s just playing the right way, playing for each other,” said Brown.
“It took a little while, a little longer than it should have, but I feel like it’s finally starting to kick in and especially in the second half of the season.”
Brown’s story starts at Auburn, where he spent four years playing as a Tiger, earning two All-SEC selections and being named the SEC Tournament MVP in 2019. He averaged 12.8 points per game at Auburn, including 39.2 percent 3-point shooting, ranked first in his school’s history in 3-pointers made by the end of his tenure.
After the draft, Brown signed with the Maine Red Claws — now the Maine Celtics — the G League affiliate team of the Boston Celtics. He put up productive numbers in Maine, with 13.8 points, 3.4 rebounds and 2.2 assists per contest. In one game, he went 11-for-11 from deep but the season was ultimately cut short due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The next year, he found himself with New York’s affiliate team, the Westchester Knicks. Westchester had opted into bubble play, but Brown spent most of his time with the Knicks on the bench due to various injuries.
“Really, I would probably have enjoyed it more if I wasn’t hurt,” he says. “You know, I was just there trying to be a good teammate. I still played a few games, but [I’d] play a game or two, and then [I’d] have to sit out like three or four games.”
In the offseason, Brown was traded to Long Island in exchange for the rights to Jaylen Hands, the Nets second rounder in the 2019 Draft. This wasn’t Brown’s first experience being moved in the offseason, as he was dealt from Maine to Westchester after his first year in the G League. It was “nothing too crazy,” he remembers.
With the Nets, Brown reunited with James Maye, one of Long Island’s assistant coaches. The two had worked together during Brown’s pre-draft process, with Maye preparing Brown for workouts with NBA teams.
“He did my pre-draft workout, so before I would go to workout with NBA teams — I had about 13 or 14 workouts — I was working out with Coach James and he did a lot of [work], like ball-handling, shooting, game-time shots,” Brown remembers. “Really just getting me ready for what I’m going to see in the workouts, it was a lot of three-on-three things, two-on-two, one-on-one. We’d do one-one-one full-court, two-on-two full court, three-on-three full court, and that’s just getting me ready so when I get to those workouts it won’t be as hard.”
Before each game, Maye and Brown work together through warmup focusing on limiting Brown’s dribbles before shots. Maye says he also helps Brown with the “mental aspect” of the game.
On the Nets, Brown has filled into his role well as an off-ball scoring guard. Known for his long-range shooting, Brown routinely lights it up from deep for the Nets, and his three-point shooting percentage is up to 36.8 percent after a slow start to the year.
Long Island’s early-season roster featured a plethora of guards, including Brown, Craig Randall II, Josh Gray, and former NBA veteran Jordan Crawford.
Brown has embraced the guard-heavy lineups Long Island’s new head coach Adam Caporn routinely rolls out, noting that he’s accustomed to that style, playing it at both Auburn and with the Maine Red Claws.
“I think the thing I like about it the most is that we’re fast, it makes us really fast,” Brown said. “I feel like that’s a very strong lineup for us that creates mismatches as well.”
Even with a lower percentage, Brown’s gravity as a shooting threat remains invaluable; he is a player opposing defenses must respect even on an off night.
No play better exemplifies this use of his long-range talent that Long Island’s pet play the “stack pick-and-roll,” in which a ball-handler will receive a typical high pick-and-roll from a big, but then a smaller guard — Brown, in this instance — will set a back screen one the defender guarding the screener, making that navigation more difficult.
And I’ll let the coach describe the action:
“When teams are in drop [coverage], it gives you an opportunity to strain the big guy,” said Caporn. “And sometimes that can open up a lane for the drive. What I like about it is, our little three-man games that have some ball and player movement.”
Caporn continues, explains what makes Brown such a valuable part of the play. “Obviously, Bryce’s shooting is such a threat, [it] brings some stress to the other team and gives an opportunity for the other team to make a mistake.”
“They’re so worried about not giving up a three to Bryce that we get layups.”
And after a slow start to the year, Brown is beginning to settle into his role on the team.
“I’ll say [my role] is probably to shoot, defend, be a scorer for us. And at times, be a playmaker as well,” Brown told NetsDaily. “You know, I try to get in there and just do things that help us win like rebounds, you might see me have a high number in the rebound column just because I [of] it takes to win sometimes [then] that’s what I have to do.
“You know, we’re not the biggest team so I try to try to chip in there and help out with things like that. And like I said, on the defensive side, it’s something that not everybody can bring every night and I feel like I can do that.”
On top of his shooting, Brown has embraced another role, as an offensive rebounder. As a guard, his opportunistic dives are, well, opportunities to create second possessions for the Nets. Brown has averaged nearly six rebounds per contest since December 18th, with multiple double-digit outings on the boards. And with the green light from his coaching staff to crash the offensive glass, he is as confident as ever.
“They’ve kind of allowed me recently to have a little more freedom with, like, pick[ing] up the ball-handler [defensively] and rebounding,” Brown explained. “If I’m allowed to rebound more, then I can pick the ball. So Coach [Caporn] allowed me to kind of have similar freedom like okay, you can crash offensive rebounds and then you pick up the ball and I appreciate coach for that because I feel like it just allows me to show my game more.”
With NBA teams losing their players to Health and Safety Protocols for extended periods of time in November and December, 10-day hardship contracts were signed by players across the G League. Long Island was one of only team two teams — the other being the Salt Lake City Stars — without a player on its roster to be called-up to an NBA roster.
“You know, I feel like everybody’s big goal at the end of the year is to get a call up,” Brown admits. “But at the end of the day, I just want to get better. I want to become a better all-around player. And if I haven’t got a call up yet, like right now or in [the] next couple of weeks or before the season even ends, at the end of the day I just want to learn what do I need to do to get there?”
And though seeing other players receive 10-day opportunities is “extra motivation,” Brown’s current focus is on the present, with the Long Island Nets.
“[Whatever] it takes to win a couple more games, that’s what I’m gonna do.”