WASHINGTON -- The vibrating mobile phone interrupted Capital City coach Jarell Christian’s conversation with other Go-Go staff Tuesday afternoon. The incoming call started a process, one that defines why the G-League franchise exists and precisely at the Washington Wizards practice facility.
Wizards’ senior vice president of basketball operations Tommy Sheppard, the type of person one pauses a conversation for, was on the other end of the line. “It’s a phone call I’m going to answer every time,” a smiling Christian made clear. This conversation provided a heads up. Guard Troy Brown Jr., Washington’s 2018 first-round pick, and backup center Thomas Bryant needed additional work. They would join the Go-Go’s practice Wednesday.
This sounds like a demotion. It’s not even though technically both players were assigned to the G-League squad. If you blinked - or took a three-hour nap midday - then you missed the entire shuffle. Brown and Bryant were on the sideline for Washington’s 119-95 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers Wednesday night.
Players with three or fewer years of NBA experience are eligible for unlimited G-League assignments – and same day return. The Wizards and Go-Go inhabiting the Entertainment and Sports Arena put the latter point into play.
Brown, 19, and Bryant were at Capital One Arena for Washington’s morning shootaround ahead of Wednesday’s game against the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Wizards were not performing a covert operation, but Brown spilled the beans when explaining to reporters why he couldn’t stay for a chat shortly after 12 p.m.
They soon drove city streets to I-295, hopped off the desired exit, and then jumped into a two-hour practice with their second team of the day.
Brown and Bryant, who played for the Lakers’ G-League team last season, needed up-and-down court work. Neither is part of Washington’s rotation.
Brown’s 30 minutes, including four Wednesday with the game out of reach, are the fewest of any player selected 1-22 in the 2018 NBA Draft. Bryant, a big man with energy, took the court less than Brown.
Consistent in-season full-court practices are rare for NBA teams considering travel and a desire to keep key players fresh. Those factors mean finding work wherever and whenever.
“This is why the Go-Go are here,” Christian said to NBC Sports Washington. “This is why our staff is put in place for these guys to develop and get better.”
Following Go-Go practice Brown raced to his apartment and caught a needed shower. He then returned to the Wizards around the point when the NBA club recalled him from the Go-Go.
Brown took the situation in stride.
“[The Wizards] know I work hard, but they just want to make sure I’m getting my proper reps,” Brown told NBC Sports Washington during Wednesday’s second stint at Capital One Arena.
The up-and-down activity happened this week for a reason. Brooks gained insight into the G-League process during his time as the coach for the Oklahoma City Thunder. He wanted to keep Brown and Bryant with the NBA squad “the first three to four weeks" of the season before considering a reassignment.
The possibility of a Go-Go stint longer than a standard movie could come later, Brooks said, including game action [Update: Brooks announced Thursday that Bryant would join the Go-Go for Friday's game at Wisconsin.]
Christian and his staff will be ready.
While his title is Capital City head coach, Christian's primary tasks go far beyond winning and losing games. He must implement the Wizards’ offensive and defensive schemes, so the players going from one team to the other experience a smooth transition. Then there is aiding with playing development. That’s important for any of the players, but specifically those on the Wizards roster like the team’s first No. 1 selection since 2015.
“Troy has never played a real NBA game. This is the next best thing for him,” Christian said.
Brown didn’t discount the extra work despite not going against players with multi-million dollar contracts.
“He’s young. He’s so young. He’s talented,” Christian said. “The thing that impresses me most about him is how he goes in those workouts. …. He’s an intense workout guy. He’s got an ability to put the ball on the floor and make plays for himself. I can see him doing the same thing for us if we ever get him for a game.”
Capital City opened its inaugural season losing three of four games. Christian’s coaching thoughts naturally gravitated toward the next game. Then Christian received a call.
“I’m a big ‘Be where your feet are’ guy,” Christian said, referencing a saying about mindfulness and remaining present. “Obviously, we have to prepare for Friday night’s game, but I want to make sure that we can be the best today in practice. Having two NBA players in your practice only enhances that practice. I embrace that. Them being here will only help our team.”
Brooks eventually played Brown and Brooks deep into the blowout win. They entered with four minutes left and made all three of their field goal attempts.
“I’ve been enjoying the process. Just trying to get better every day,” Brown said. “Work hard; trying to do anything I can to help the team.”
In one day, he helped two.
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