- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 25, 2004

Kwame Brown can’t pinpoint what hurts more these days: the angst of learning an expanded role or his achy body.

“I’m just waiting to see how I am when I’m not hurting so much,” the Washington Wizards forward said after practice Friday. “I’m playing with a lot of pain.”

That comes as little surprise. Brown is returning from offseason foot surgery Aug. 3, the result of a broken fifth metatarsal.

Brown also sprained his left ankle while overcompensating for the broken foot. His right ankle bothered him Friday, as well.

The 7-foot Brown, who says his weight is about 265 pounds, also is trying to learn to play center so that the Wizards (14-10) can deploy more versatile alignments.

Combine the injuries with the new role, and it’s not hard to see why Brown is frustrated. Brown has appeared in 10 games this season, averaging 6.4 points and 3.7 rebounds.

“It’s probably a little unfair to ask for him to get to the place where we want him to be as far as being good and being sharp,” Wizards coach Eddie Jordan said. “And it’s probably unfair to think that it is going to happen for him, especially since he is trying to learn more than one position.

“But that’s the challenge, and I’m pushing him. I’m pushing him to grow and to grow at an accelerated pace as opposed to just a normal pace.”

Jordan wants to be able to play Brown at center for extended minutes alongside forwards Jared Jeffries and Antawn Jamison and reserve forward Jarvis Hayes. Jordan also envisions playing Brown at his natural power forward position alongside Brendan Haywood, thus giving the Wizards a twin-towers look.

But Brown missed all of training camp and did not return to the court until Dec. 1, leaving him woefully out of playing shape. Brown knows the only way to get back into shape is to do more work, which is counterproductive in the short term but essential in the long term.

“Some days my legs feel good,” Brown said. “Then I do work before the games, and they are gone [at game time]. It’s tough because when you are trying to work back in shape you also take away your legs.”

Brown’s frustration peaked during the final game of the Wizards’ western trip, a 104-93 loss to the Sacramento Kings.

Brown finished that game with one point and six rebounds while facing former Wizard Chris Webber for most of the night. Webber finished with 20 points, 10 rebounds and six assists.

In March at MCI Center, Brown faced a Webber who had just returned from knee surgery and posted career highs in points (30) and rebounds (19) as Webber laboriously lugged his body up and down the court.

But Brown, who eventually expects to replace Jeffries in the starting lineup at power forward, is not worrying. Not yet, at least.

“Come the end of January, then I’ll start worrying,” Brown said. “I won’t make a problem, but I’ll start worrying about my timetable because it is the timetable I had set for myself. But once I get the pain out I’ll be fine.

Jordan, on the other hand, wants Brown to make mental progress just as much as physical strides.

“I have to see enthusiasm, good body language and less frustration,” Jordan said. “He’s going to get frustrated, but he can’t blow an assignment because he is frustrated, and that is the hard part for him.”

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