On more than one occasion Wednesday night, in the fourth quarter of the Timberwolves’ victory over Boston, Lorenzo Brown looked over his shoulder, expecting a call back to the Wolves bench.
It never came.
There were a number of encouraging things to come out of that victory for the Wolves. Kevin Martin, after missing 34 games because of a broken right wrist, returned to score 21 points. With Nikola Pekovic pounding down low and with Martin on the perimeter, rookie Zach LaVine found the space to score 13 points in the third quarter.
And then there was Brown. One day removed from the NBA Development League, with only a morning shoot under his belt, he played 24 minutes at point guard, scored a career-high 11 points and had three assists.
That included playing all 12 minutes in the fourth quarter.
“He wasn’t shy,” coach Flip Saunders said. “He has confidence. The reason we called him up was because of the way he played in the D-League.”
Brown is on a 10-day contract, one prompted by Ricky Rubio’s lingering ankle injury and the fact that Mo Williams — who missed Wednesday’s game for personal reasons — also is battling body soreness brought on by big minutes.
The Wolves liked Brown enough to draft him in the second round a year ago out of North Carolina State, and remained interested even after making him one of the final cuts last year. After a strong showing this season with Grand Rapids of the D-League, they called him up. And he is going to be given every opportunity to stick.
Especially if he continues to play as efficiently as he did Wednesday, when he hit three of six shots, including two of three three-pointers.
Plus, Saunders — who cut his teeth as a coach in the old Continental Basketball Association — has a soft spot for players who work themselves up from the minor leagues.
“I appreciate the commitment and work they put in,” Saunders said. “You know they’re going to be tough, and that they’re going to do what the coach wants.”
What he wanted from Brown was good perimeter defense, the ability to hit the wide-open shot and to prove he can get the Wolves into their offense. Brown delivered on all three, enough that Saunders stuck with him down the stretch even though LaVine had one of his best games.
“Offensively, we were flowing so well, it was best to let those guys finish the game,” Saunders said.
Brown, though, isn’t taking anything for granted. Last season, he played 26 games for the 76ers — the Wolves’ opponent Friday — after being cut by the Wolves. But most of his development has come in the D-League.
Thaddeus Young, who played with Brown in Philadelphia, said that to him, the biggest difference for Brown is environment. “[Philadelphia coach] Brett [Brown] was on him really tough,” Young said. “Flip lets him play his game.”
For Lorenzo Brown, this is a great opportunity. But the key is not to do too much. It’s an easy trap. Maybe a player thinks he has to score a lot to get back to the NBA. Maybe he feels he has to do everything once he gets his chance.
“You have to have a calm pace to your game,” he said. “I feel my focus is a lot different than last year. I worked on my shot a little bit more. And, defensively, I feel I’m more aggressive on the ball.”