- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 12, 2005

If the Washington Wizards are going to enjoy further postseason success, they will have to do it without suspended Kwame Brown and almost certainly without injured Etan Thomas.

Officials for the Wizards, who trail the Miami Heat 2-0 in their best-of-seven Eastern Conference semifinal that resumes tonight at MCI Center, said they will not lift Brown’s team-imposed suspension.

In addition, Thomas likely will miss the rest of the series. Though listed as day-to-day with a strained abdomen suffered in Tuesday’s 108-102 loss to the Heat, Thomas is almost definitely finished for the playoffs. He missed 32 games at the start of the season with a similar injury.

“Everything remains the same,” said coach Eddie Jordan, who acknowledged he has talked with Brown since the suspension. “We are moving forward with the people that we have. We think we have enough. If we play as hard as we did the other night, we have a chance to win these games.”

Last week Brown, who became upset after playing a season-low four minutes in the Wizards’ Game3 victory over Chicago in the first round, skipped a practice, a shoot-around and Game4. The Wizards have said the suspension — with pay — was for philosophical reasons. Initially the team reported that Brown’s absence was because of a stomach virus.

With Thomas out, the Wizards don’t have a legitimate backup for center Brendan Haywood. That left players wondering whether Brown should be back on the roster.

Less than a week after earning the franchise’s first playoff series victory in 23 years, the Wizards need as many weapons as possible, especially inside against Miami center Shaquille O’Neal.

Team captain Antawn Jamison, like the rest of his teammates in the aftermath of Game2, said he would love to have Brown back on the roster. Yesterday following practice, though, Jamison fell in line with management.

“From my understanding, when they suspended him, it was for the rest of the playoffs, and that’s the way it stands,” said Jamison, who scored a career playoff-high 32 points in Game2 in spite of the aggravated tendinitis in his right knee. “We are going to continue to play with the guys we have because we know that they are going to fight. We have been down before with guys injured all year and found a way to win. This is just another situation where we have to dig down and pick up the slack.”

Thomas, in pain yesterday, said he will make every effort to play tonight.

“I am going to see how it feels [today],” Thomas said. “This is the playoffs and this is the time that you have to deal with injuries like this. If I can go, I will definitely be out there.”

Every player asked said he wanted Brown re-instated. But most recognized that withdrawing the suspension could send the wrong message and that Brown must face consequences for his actions.

“If you could look into a crystal ball and see the future, he’d probably realize he made a big mistake because he could have made a name for himself and changed the way the whole league views him just off this series alone,” Haywood said. “Shaq wasn’t going to come out and guard him. He has a great 15-foot jump shot. He’s a guy that’s highly skilled, so this could have been the series that turned his game around.”

Ironically, Brown, who has not returned numerous phone calls, probably would have more minutes available to him now than at any previous stage of his career.

“It’s an unfortunate situation,” guard Juan Dixon said. “I would love to see Kwame back in this locker room. He could help us tremendously right now, especially with Etan going down.”

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