- The Washington Times - Friday, April 8, 2005

Just boo Kwame Brown until his ears hurt.

Boo him right out of the city.

Then boo him whenever he returns to Fun Street in the opposition’s uniform.

Call him a bum. Call him a stiff. Call him the biggest bust ever among No. 1 overall picks of the NBA Draft. Let it all out. Go for it. Stretch those vocal cords. Feel better now?

But let’s be fair, too, although fair has nothing to do with the antipathy that has been showered on Brown.

Let’s boo Michael Jordan. Let’s boo the former player/coach/president of the Wizards who ran the proceedings with a cell phone in one hand and a golf club in the other.

It was Jordan who selected Brown No. 1 overall in the 2001 NBA Draft. It was Jordan who took Brown ahead of Tyson Chandler, Pau Gasol, Eddy Curry and all the rest.

And being the No. 1 pick overall in a draft is what this is all about. If Brown were merely a lottery pick instead of a No. 1 pick overall, the judgment against him would be considerably less venomous.

Please, this is not about feeling Brown’s pain. He makes plenty of money to assuage any hurt. No, this is about context, perspective.

Brown is what he is for now, a fourth-year player who sometimes does not seem to know his right hand from his left, who sometimes appears utterly lost on the court, incapable of completing the most elementary plays, as was the case at home against the Celtics earlier this week.

In one sequence, Brown missed two free throws, was cited for a defensive three-second violation and then fumbled a pass out of bounds and the easy dunk opportunity with it.

The boo-birds let Brown have it at that point.

OK. Fine. Wonderful. Point made.

Now let it rest. And ease your expectations of Brown. And accept the obvious: He is 23 years old and has been playing on a gimpy right foot this season. And remember this: Big guys do not develop at the pace of little guys.

Here is what could happen with Brown: You are going to boo him to another city, where he will start fresh and not be so cursed with being the No. 1 pick overall of an NBA Draft. And then, of course, he will develop into an All-Star, and Washington will be left to rue again the moving of a low-post player who became a worthy performer elsewhere.

You say, “Yeah, but Kwame has had plenty of time to develop, and either he does not want it badly enough or he is just a big bum.”

To which can be said: Jermaine O’Neal.

He was a four-season nobody with the Trail Blazers. Now he is a four-time All-Star with the Pacers.

Brown undoubtedly needs to look deep inside himself and not point to others as the cause of his disappointments. He needs to mature. A lot.

Speaking of which, look what another year of maturity has done for Gilbert Arenas.

He has meant everything to the Wizards this season, as the consummate professional.

Yet last season, if you recall, Arenas threw a ball into the stands in frustration in one game, wanted to challenge the opposition’s 7-footer to a fight after another game, pouted and refused to shoot the ball after his teammates accurately noted he was taking too many indiscriminate field goal attempts and struggled at times to find a balance between his point guard/shooting guard quandary.

Now Arenas is all-NBA material, either second or third team, and an intrepid competitor who has learned to curb his emotions.

All this evolution took place in one year.

The same could happen with Brown on a smaller scale.

That is the great unknown.

More booing will not set him straight, and besides, he is the wrong target.

Suggestion: Take a flight to Chicago, a taxi to the front gate of No. 23’s mansion and boo to your heart’s content.

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