How desperate are the Wizards to see third-year forward Kwame
Brown succeed? Consider: Before a home game against the Magic in
mid-December, Washington's program featured a photo of Brown
dunking above the breathless title, BROWN BREAKS LOOSE.
In this case, "breaking loose" consisted of consecutive games of
double-digit scoring, only the second time Brown had accomplished
that all season. So there was G.M. Ernie Grunfeld before the
game, putting his arm around Brown and saying, "I'm real happy
for you." You'd think he'd made the All-Star team.
The outbreak was short-lived, however. After one more big game
against the hapless Orlando front line, Brown reverted to form,
scoring only 18 points over the next five games. Having lost his
starting spot to Christian Laettner, Brown was averaging 8.5
points and 6.3 rebounds at week's end.
The reason for Brown's desultory play appears to be a lack of
effort. When he wants to, he can be a force; he has a nice touch,
good court sense and exceptional speed for a man his size (6'11",
240). Too many nights he looks listless, however, or disappears
if he doesn't get enough shots. "He loses his focus," says
Wizards guard Larry Hughes. "We need Kwame for 79 or 82 out of 82
games, not only 30 or 40."
First-year coach Eddie Jordan knows Brown is a 21-year-old
project still smarting from the tongue-lashings of Michael
Jordan, who chose him first in the 2001 draft. Yet the coach
says, "We'd like to see Kwame at his most intense every night.
That's all we need."
Brown believes he's doing just fine and has even embraced his
demotion to second-string. "We have a lot of scorers in the
starting lineup," he says. "I come off the bench with guys who
understand I need to get some shots, and I get my shots."
If Brown is concerned about living up to the expectations of
being a No. 1 draft pick, he doesn't show it. "One thing about
this league," he says, "you're always going to get another
opportunity." --Chris Ballard
COLOR PHOTO: SCOTT CUNNINGHAM/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES (BROWN) The Wizards still have faith in Brown's talent, though they question his drive.
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