LOS ANGELES -- Almost every kid growing up in Southern California dreams about it. Driving down Figueroa to get to Staples Center and finding a purple and gold jersey with your name on the back, walking out of the darkness into the showtime lights as Lawrence Tanter's booming voice lets the entire crowd know your name, all before Kobe Bryant daps you up at halfcourt. That dream came true on Sunday night when rookie small forward and Southern California native Anthony Brown started for the Los Angeles Lakers in their first game at Staples Center this season.
"When I put on the jersey, I feel like I'm representing not just the team, but everybody that's watching from my hometown and stuff like that, so it means a little more to me. There is an extra sense of pride," said Brown following the game.
The Ocean View High School product's stat line was modest in his debut, just two points on his two shots in 22 minutes of floortime, but according to Lakers head coach Byron Scott, offense is not the end of the floor that the team wants him focused on anyway.
"[Brown] is probably one of our best perimeter defenders. He gets after people, he's not afraid. He's a physical small forward/guard. Runs the floor extremely well, can shoot the ball. I would almost compare him to a Bruce Bowen-type player. I don't want him to do too much off the dribble with the ball, just if you have shots catch-and-shoot it, but if you're not pump fake one dribble or two but understanding that about his game, but it's really about him just defending these perimeter guys and getting out on the break."
Former Lakers coach Phil Jackson used to call Bowen "Edward Scissorhands" after the titular movie character for how his questionable-in-their-legality techniques would leave opponents with scratches all across their arms, but Scott is not ready to go that far with Brown just yet.
"He's not scissorhands yet. Bruce was a really good defender, but he could hack you up a little bit too, Anthony, he has a ways to go to get to that. First of all he has to get a reputation in this league for being a defender and then maybe he can get away with being a bit more Edward."
Brown understands that he still has a lot of work to do to reach such heights, but he does see himself as a three-and-D player, mentioning Danny Green and Khris Middleton as two players in the league he wants to mold his game after. The three-and-D wing remains as a coveted archetype in the modern NBA, and while the three part of that equation was absent on Sunday night with Brown missing his only attempt from distance, he did shoot 44.1 percent from three in his senior year at Stanford. Yes, there is reason to assume Brown will find his stroke..
On the defensive side of the ball, however, Brown was mostly good, using his length and quick hands to disrupt Maccabi Haifa's ballhandlers. "I got to make that my calling card," Brown said, "because that lineup has enough scoring... I should be exhausted when I come out, that's my motto."
If defense was the card he was looking for, there were a few times Brown had to go fish. He made a few mistakes in how he chose to navigate screens that one can expect from any rookie, especially a second-round pick, but overall it was a nice starting debut.
"I was really happy with Anthony, defensively he was great, he didn't try to do too much, he just did the things that he was capable of doing," said Scott. "That first unit, they started off the game very aggressive on that end of the floor, and that's what I was looking for."
"Being a Lakers fan and having them select you, I felt like I was dreaming," Brown said after his name was called on draft night. That dream was over, but a new one was fulfilled on Sunday night at Staples Center. While this will likely be Brown's last start for a while, the Southern California kid showed enough in his debut to make him someone worth keeping an eye on going forward as the Lakers continue to focus on their youth-fueled rebuild.
If Brown can mold himself into anything resembling Bowen, Middleton, or Green, perhaps he can be a part of one of the parades he used to watch as a kid.