By Paul Coro azcentral sports Sun Apr 14, 2013 6:08 PM
Shannon Brown sits aside the practice court. He is done with his work but unable to let go of a basketball or his intensity as he discusses becoming the Suns’ odd man out.
For a season and a half, Brown’s eyes widened when his play intensified for Phoenix. The topic of going from starter to bench fixture for two months also widens his eyes.
“I did what I needed to do as a starter and handled my business,” Brown said. “For some reason, they want to cut my legs from under me. I know I’m built for it. I did a great job of holding my composure and not letting it get to me to where I did something detrimental to my career. I showed a lot of character by sitting back while I was taken advantage of in a lot of ways. I’ve done everything asked of me in practice and made sure to show these people what time it is. It definitely hurts to sit on the bench, watching us lose night in and night out knowing I can help and being lied to. It’s been a crazy year. I’m just glad I made it through.”
Shortly after Lindsey Hunter became interim head coach, Brown moved to the end of the bench to create playing time for Wes Johnson, who is averaging 13.5 points as a starter. Brown made spot appearances in five of the past 27 games when Hunter was displeased with the team’s effort. Out of respect, Hunter said he would not use Brown in mop-up duty but also did not play him Saturday night when only nine other players were available at Minnesota.
“I was told that it would change,” Brown said. “It’s one thing hoping. It’s another thing being told that and it doesn’t happen. I could see if we were winning, but we just won our first game in 11 games.
“The part that hurts most is, whenever I step on the court, I give whatever I got even though it might not be the best situation. I give it all until it hurts. It hurts even more when you’re always fighting an uphill mountain-climb battle with no gear, butt-naked out there, clawing and scratching. People come to me and apologize for what’s going on.”
Asked who pledged a change or lied, Brown only said, “The people in charge.”
Brown said he was given lip service rather than a reason. The Suns have gone 7-20 since the change, falling to last place in the Western Conference. Brown only shot 41.6 percent this season but had a career-best scoring average until his time became minimal.
“Based on the landscape, every guy had to assume anything from one to 14 depending on the night, situation, who’s healthy, if we’re winning — who’s coaching, for that matter,” Suns General Manager Lance Blanks said. “We don’t control minutes. We’ve got a lot of competitive guys. We’ve got guys who can play two and three (swingmen positions). Goran (Dragic) has played the two with Kendall (Marshall). I don’t know how many times I would have done that if I were coaching. Our job is to fill the team, give the coach what we think are the best options and then let the chips fall based on what they see. I don’t think it impacts the type of player he is or the level of contribution. It’s just situational. Everyone, at some level, has had to deal with the frustrations.”
Brown spins an upside that he is saving his body for next season. The Suns have Brown under contract for next season at $3.5 million, but only $1.75 million is guaranteed. That makes trading him easier or waiving him more palatable, but Blanks notes that he was in the Cleveland front office that drafted Brown in 2006.
“I don’t think you could predict that this impacts anything next year,” Blanks said.
Brown has been in the D-League and won a championship. He was waived and traded. Last summer, he worked out in Phoenix to convince the Suns to re-sign him. Now, he is benched.
“I’m glad I didn’t let my emotions get the best of me and lash out like I normally do,” Brown said. “Younger Shannon Brown would’ve been out of the NBA for doing something he couldn’t handle. I’ve been through enough.”