Troy Brown Jr. pauses for about 10 seconds before answering the question: What are you most proud of this season? Standing next to his locker inside Capital One Arena for the Wizards’ final game, Brown is honest about his performance as a rookie. There haven’t been too many highlights. At least none that jump out.
“Man, that’s tough,” he finally tells City Paper. He mentions the career-high 24 points he scored on March 31, and the 15 points two night prior. But staying “mentally [strong], that was the biggest thing I took pride in,” he continues, “just making sure I wasn’t doubting myself and I was kind of staying focused and focusing on the bigger picture.”
The Wizards finished the season with a 32-50 record, including a 116-110 loss to the Boston Celtics during the season finale in front of sizable crowd of green Celtics jerseys and T-shirts.
Brown knew even before the season began that he had a tough hill to climb. The team selected Brown with the 15th overall pick, which was met with mixed feelings from Wizards fans.
The man who selected him, former Wizards president Ernie Grunfeld, is no longer with the team after the Wizards failed to make the playoffs.
“I mean honestly, I still feel the same way as when I got here,” Brown says. “I still got a lot more to prove, a lot more to show. First year, there was some good, some bad, and at the end of the day, I have to learn from it and grow from it … It’s a business and I have to work to keep my job.”
Brown, one of the youngest players in the NBA at 19, split time between the Wizards and the team’s G League affiliate, the Capital City Go-Go. He only averaged 4.8 points, 2.8 rebounds, and 1.5 assists in 52 games with the Wizards.
Despite the inconsistent minutes, Wizards coach Scott Brooks says Brown “had a great year.”
“Sometimes you can want your younger players to be 26 right away,” says Brooks. “Look at what it’s taken Brad [Beal], and Brad is a multiple time All-Star. It took him four, five years to become that, right? Troy is no different. I’m not saying he is going to become an All-Star but it takes time … I’m happy with how he played this year.”
Being a new player in the league, Brown says that the business side of the NBA surprised him the most. Throughout the season, Brown saw a slew of teammates get traded and even his own name in trade rumors.
The Wizards traded away its 2013 No. 3 overall pick, Otto Porter Jr.,shortly after news arrived that John Wall would need to undergo surgery for a torn Achilles. They also parted ways with Kelly Oubre Jr., a first-round draft pick in 2015.
“Of course you hear it’s a business but until it happens, you really don’t see it coming,” Brown says. “Of course things went kinda downhill, but at the same time, people started getting traded I didn’t see coming, so to hear your name in trade rumors, stuff like that, that’s like real business. That’s the first time I’ve been a part of anything like that.”
One of the few constants around Brown has been Beal, his All-Star locker mate. Beal averaged 25.6 points, 5.0 rebounds, and 5.5 assists per game this season, and became the first Wizards player with at least 2,000 points, 400 rebounds, and 400 assists.
“He’s a great dude,” Brown says of Beal. “Great leader. Leads by example. That’s one thing I’ve always told him. A lot of dudes in the league that know they’re that guy, and they act like they’re that guy feel like they [should] get special privileges. He doesn’t act like that. He’s one of the most unselfish dudes I’ve ever been around. Being next to him every night and him doing his job but also checking on me showed me how much he cared about the game and how much he wanted me to get better. It was really great for me personally.”
Heading into offseason, Brown says he wants to work his explosiveness and his ability to play through contact. He’ll soon head back to his hometown of Las Vegas where he’ll train with Joe Abunassar of Impact Basketball.
He plans to fly between D.C. and Vegas for workouts and to play in the NBA Summer League this July.
“I’m not a big fan of taking time off,” Brown says. “I’m going to be in the gym working hard to be better and making sure I’m doing everything I can so we have a better year next year.”