The full-court scrimmage remained undecided, only one basket determining which group would walk off the winner and which group would have to run a few times up and down the court as punishment.
So in what marked the middle of his first 10-day contract with the Lakers, Jabari Brown provided a moment to cement a greater impression with the team. He sank the game-winning jumper.
“I had to get the win. I knew coach had something up his sleeve,” Jabari said following Saturday’s practice at the Lakers’ practice facility in El Segundo. “I like hitting big shots and I take it like every other shot.”
This hardly matches any implications Brown will show when the Lakers (17-47) host the Atlanta Hawks (51-14) on Sunday at Staples Center. Or when Brown posted seven points on 3-of-6 shooting in his NBA debut during the Lakers’ loss on Thursday to New York. But Brown’s game-winner in a pickup scrimmage surely can only help his cause, right?
“Every day means something,” Brown said. “I’m just trying to show them that I’m going to be a guy that’s going to bring energy every day. Whether it be practice or a game.”
The shot provided a ripple effect.
Brown had bragging rights over Lakers forward Carlos Boozer, who predicted the starters would win. Brown ingratiated himself with his reserve teammates, with Lakers guard Jeremy Lin calling him “awesome.” In what Lakers coach Byron Scott called “very simple rules,” the starters ran for two minutes at the end of practice for losing. The shot also reinforced how Brown has become much more assertive than when he played for the Lakers during training camp as an undrafted rookie.
“I love the way he came out and ready to attack,” Scott said. “The knock on him, as I told him when we let him go, was the last couple of preseason games he got a little bit more aggressive. The first week in training camp and first five or six preseason games, you really didn’t know he was out there. When he’s trying to make a team, you have to let everybody know you’re out there.”
Brown let Scott know he was there.
Both Scott and Brown gushed about his past experience with the Lakers’ Development League Affiliate, the D-Fenders, making the transition to the Lakers easier because both teams follow Scott’s playbook. Although it hardly compares to his league-leading 24.4 points per game with the D-Fenders, Brown’s seven-point out on 3-of-6 shooting in 18 minutes off the bench also prompted Scott to single him out as the game’s top performer.
“Definitely felt good about that because it validates [my play],” Brown said. “I tried to play hard and play the right way.”
Still, Brown offered some self-critiques. He faulted himself for leaving too much space for Knicks guard Tim Hardaway Jr., who scored 22 points on 8-of-14 shooting and a 5-of-7 clip from three-point range. Brown also pointed out his 1-of-4 mark from the foul line.
But Brown sounded like he has embraced the learning process, including spending Saturday’s practice learning the Lakers’ full-court 2-3 and 1-3-1 zone defenses.
“I’m just trying to show I’m a guy who bring energy whether he puts me in for five minutes or 15 minutes,,” Brown said. “I’m just going to knock down open shots and play hard on defense. I’m definitely trying to show that I can be an asset moving ahead, I know there will be a lot of free agents this year, so I know there will be a lot of evaluating.”
Brown’s contract ensures that he will stay with the Lakers this week with games against Atlanta (Sunday), in Golden State (Monday) and against Utah (Thursday). He would then be eligible for another 10-day contract and the chance to play on the Lakers’ Summer League team. His stay could depend on if Nick Young recovers from a swollen left knee that has kept him out for nine games.
Brown does not want to look too far ahead for reasons beyond staying focused on how to improve. A key highlight will entail traveling to Golden State where the Berkeley native will have plenty of friends and family attending Oracle Arena.
Everybody’s hitting me up about the game, I told them, ‘I can’t give everybody tickets, so you’re going to have to pay your own way.’ But I’m going to try to get as many as I can,” said Brown, who attended Warriors games growing up and marveled at seeing opposing stars such as Kobe Bryant, Dwyane Wade, Kevin Garnett, Jason Richardson and Gilbert Arenas in person. “It’s just a lot of excitement, it’s always fun to play at home and in your front of your family, it’s a sense of pride.”
Before that happens though, Brown will play against Atlanta as a backup small forward and shooting guard. He will remain eager to prove memorable moments that have more significance than a game-winning shot to end practice.
“I thought he played extremely well for a guy who is on a 10-day contract,” Scott said. “He was thrown into action all of a sudden. He earned the right to play some more.”