Celebrating a 21st birthday usually requires a party with family and friends to commemorate the first (legal) taste of alcohol.
For Wizards guard Troy Brown, Jr., a simple team dinner with a glass of wine did the trick.
“Ian (Mahinmi) got me some wine, so we got to celebrate it,” Brown said on the Bleav in Wizards podcast. “They took me out to dinner and stuff and he got me some wine. So my man looked out for me for sure.”
For Brown, his love for the game of basketball makes up for not getting a real chance to bring in the big occasion with a proper party. Brown said he was used to the sacrifice of giving up birthday parties for summer tournaments anyways.
Still, given the current conditions under the pandemic, it would have been impossible for Brown to celebrate his July 28th birthday at the bar or with a large gathering even if the Wizards season was already completed. Instead, Brown celebrated with growth.
Brown told Bullets Forever’s Matt Modderno and former Wizard fan favorite Larry Hughes his mindset going into the Orlando bubble was all about getting better and showing everyone what he could do. With Bradley Beal and Davis Bertans opting out, Brown’s role on offense increased and he’s shown flashes that he can be a player for the future with Washington -- even if the Wizards have been eliminated from the postseason and are without a win so far.
The number of minutes hasn’t been the only thing to increase in Brown’s life, however. Premiering his video series titled “Ballin’ in the Bubble,” Brown’s YouTube page has soared to over eight thousand subscribers looking for an inside glimpse of life in the bubble.
In each vlog, it’s easy to see Brown having fun with his teammates while still working hard to improve his game. The inside looks give Wizards fans access into what kind of personalities make up the locker room, making it that much more enjoyable to cheer them on.
“We’re athletes and everybody always wants to know what we are doing on the court,” said Brown. “But off the court, as people, to be able to show our personalities and even to be able to show my teammates on that type of platform whether or not they’re just being themselves and they’re not just doing it because I’m holding a camera. It’s definitely dope and the opportunity has been great.”
Brown said when he was tweeting the idea of starting a vlog inside the bubble, the Wizards PR team partnered with him to edit his footage and make an appealing end product. Quarantined in those Disney hotels, this gives Brown more time to focus on his game.
Despite the five straight defeats, Brown and his young teammates are focusing on long-term player growth as opposed to getting frustrated with the results.
“I would say for me personally, my motivation is just the fact that I want to be a great player,” Brown said. “That’s the only motivation I need...From a team perspective, we’re really young and we have a lot of guys that just want to be great players. We know the odds are against us, but at the end of the day we want to prove people wrong.”
Whether it’s playing as a pass-first point guard or at the three, coach Scott Brooks is using their time in Orlando to figure out how to best utilize Brown’s skillset to win next year. Brown said veteran leaders like Mahinmi and Ish Smith have helped the younger guys focus on continued improvement in that respect.
Starting the year off as a 3-and-D small forward, Brown’s role has evolved into a playmaker in recent weeks. Hughes gave Brown some advice on how to keep that going.
“I would just encourage you to not hesitate, and don’t overthink the situation or play,” said Hughes. “Your talent is what the team needs, so now it’s time to hone in on that skill of figuring out how to play with Brad and John even though you like to handle the ball.”
Hughes, a former first-team All-Defensive member in 2005 when he finished the season leading the league in steals as a Wizard, told Brown that his defense will help him fit in with the likes of Wall and Beal next season. After a solid defensive possession, Hughes said if he’s able to get the rebound then he should continue to have that license to push the tempo.
Sporting a stat line consisting of 10.3 PPG, 5.5 RPG, and 2.5 APG, Brown has shown repeated growth all throughout the season. Often asked to cover the opposition’s best player, Brown doesn’t limit his growth to the lines on the court.
As Brown continues to document the end of the Wizards season in Orlando, he - along with his teammates - continues to get more likable.
“It’s one of those things that nobody knows who I am as a person. They just know Troy Brown the basketball player, they don’t know me as a person and how I act,” Brown said. “This vlog was a way to show everybody that I’m more than a basketball player. People think of us as these commodities, but we’re regular people just like everyone else.”
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