- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 11, 2005

MIAMI — Washington Wizards power forward Kwame Brown has talked with team officials about returning to the team and has been working out at MCI Center in the unlikely event his suspension is rescinded, according to sources with knowledge of the situation.

Brown has called more than one team official about his suspension for the remainder of the playoffs, which began May 3. Brown has been contrite and broached the possibility of a return, according to more than one of the sources.

However, team officials have said they do not intend to lift the suspension, which Brown received after missing two practices and a pregame shoot-around last week.

?Right now, no,? coach Eddie Jordan said after last night’s game. ?It looks like Etan [Thomas] could be lost for the series, but right now we’re playing with what we got.?

NBA commissioner David Stern was at last night’s Game 2 of the Eastern Conference semifinals between the Wizards and Miami Heat. Stern has been trying to implement an age minimum of 20 for the collective bargaining agreement, which will expire June 30.

Despite that, Stern said he would not use Brown as an example. Brown was drafted immediately after high school at 18.

?I would not generalize from Kwame,? Stern said. ?I would say that he is the first pick in the draft and that places extraordinary pressure on people, and some people can react better. I’d like to think that somebody could react better at 20 than at 19 and at 19 better than at 18.?

Former Wizard Christian Laettner served as somewhat of a mentor to Brown before he was traded to Dallas with Jerry Stackhouse in exchange for Antawn Jamison.

Laettner, these days a reserve with the Heat, said he thought Brown might fold under the pressure long before he actually did.

?Not really,? Laettner said when asked whether he was surprised by the suspension. ?I was surprised two years ago when they expected so many things of him. I guess [Michael] Jordan had to see if Kwame could play because Jordan picked him. But, really, Kwame is still a senior in college, so he’s still young for the NBA.?

Laettner appears to have a soft spot in his heart for Brown, who could be elsewhere next season.

?I’ve been trying to get his number so I can give him a call and tell him to hang in there,? Laettner said. ?Even though he made a mistake or whatever, I think if he stays persistent he’ll still be a good player in this league.?

Friends turned foes

Miami forward Udonis Haslem and Wizards guard Steve Blake were teammates for one season at Miami Senior High School. Haslem was a senior and Blake a junior when the school won a state championship.

Haslem then went to the University of Florida, and Blake transferred to another high school. He intended to go to Florida but instead went to Maryland and wound up helping the Terrapins win a national championship.

?He was a skinny kid,? Haslem recalled. ?That was the only knock on him talent-wise. He was one of the best I ever played with as far as getting people in the right position to score, making sure everybody’s happy offensively and running the team.?

Oh, brother

Things seem to be going well for Heat coach Stan Van Gundy, but for his brother, Jeff, the coach of the Houston Rockets, it has been a little rougher.

After taking a 2-0 lead on the road against Dallas in a first-round series, the Rockets lost in seven games. Jeff Van Gundy also was fined a league-record $100,000 for claiming an unnamed official told him his center, Yao Ming, was being targeted for fouls by other league officials. In addition to the fine, Stern promised an inquiry and made veiled threats about Van Gundy’s job security.

On Monday, the NBA said it would not investigate Van Gundy and dropped the matter. Van Gundy agreed to leave it alone, too.

?I’m just disturbed by the whole thing,? Stan Van Gundy said. ?I really feel bad for him, obviously. It’s just been a real tough time. I mean, you lose in the series, and that [other matter] is all going on. He’s a great guy, and I think most of the people who have had dealings with him in this league would agree with that.

?It’s a difficult time, and I’m having a difficult time with it, and I feel very, very, very badly for him. … It’s not an easy time for him.?

Stern discusses labor

Commissioner Stern reiterated his confidence that a new labor agreement between the league’s players and owners can be struck in the coming weeks.

Stern said a large group of players will meet in Chicago today, and that another meeting with players and owners is scheduled in New York next Tuesday.

?We expect to have some informal discussions, staff-to-staff, in preparation of having a meeting on Tuesday in New York at which a significant group of owners and players, together with staffs from the union and the NBA, will get together,? Stern said before Game 2.

The current collective bargaining agreement is set to expire on June 30. Talks have been held sporadically since February.

Among the key issues to be addressed in the negotiations are the maximum length of player contracts, maximum annual raises allowed in those contracts, and the future of the escrow and luxury taxes designed to dissuade spending on player salaries.

?I’m optimistic that we will be making some progress next week,? Stern said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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