- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 12, 2005

Ernie Grunfeld and Eddie Jordan could not re-instate Kwame Brown to the Wizards following the injury to Etan Thomas in Game 2.

They could not go back on their May 3 decision to suspend Brown for the rest of the playoffs, regardless of the injury to Thomas and the 2-0 deficit to the Heat. They could not undo so much of their good work because of a compelling need in the post.

Brown quit on the Wizards during their series with the Bulls. It is that simple, that clear-cut. He walked out on the team in a snit and challenged the authority of Grunfeld and Jordan. He held the concept of team in contempt and dared to be held accountable. And so he was.

Grunfeld and Jordan have restored a sense of professionalism to the franchise the last two seasons. They have eliminated the culture of losing that was embedded in the franchise. They have built a sturdy foundation that promises to be impregnable in the seasons ahead.

Who thought all this possible at the start of the season — a 45-37 record, a No. 5 seed in the playoffs and the six-game elimination of the Bulls in the first round?

Grunfeld and Jordan have set a tone in the organization, and their tone is made of iron.

You do not blow all that up because of Brown’s size and the six fouls he could deploy on Shaquille O’Neal. You do not sacrifice your principles, because, suddenly, your principles no longer are convenient. You cannot think short term. You have to look at what you are building long term and what an awful message the re-instatement of Brown would send to those who could put this franchise in championship contention in two or three seasons.

Both Antawn Jamison and Gilbert Arenas endorsed the notion of Brown’s re-instatement after Game 2, which is understandable. Their focus is Game 3. It is not their job to look two or three seasons ahead. It is their job to go into Game 3 tonight severely short-handed and, in Jamison’s case, on one good knee.

They know 6-foot-8 Michael Ruffin is all that is left in the post after Brendan Haywood. And they know as hard and smart as Ruffin plays, he is not even in the picture, literally, whenever he is stationed behind the immense frame of O’Neal.

It is a tough deal, is what it is, for a team that has displayed so much resiliency this season. The Wizards are going into the affair tonight with a six-shooter while the opposition employs a bazooka. That is just the way it is going to have to be, though, no matter how contrite Brown is.

Brown has called team officials in the hope of being re-instated. He should have done more than call and work out on his own since the suspension. He should have hopped on the first commercial jet bound to Chicago after his suspension and taken a taxi to the team’s hotel and, if necessary, groveled in the presence of Grunfeld and Jordan.

Brown also should have gone public with his appeal, saying, “Look, I have been immature, the fault all mine, and all I want is another chance with this organization, even if I don’t deserve one.”

The seriousness of those gestures just might have resonated with Grunfeld and Jordan.

The reason Brown was banished to basketball purgatory is that he became more of a distraction on the court than off it. No organization wants to deal with a malcontent in a highly public fashion in the postseason unless it is absolutely necessary, as it was with Brown.

Grunfeld and Jordan were forced to confront that, which can play lots of different ways with a team so young. Grunfeld and Jordan confronted the issue of Brown, and then he virtually ceased to exist.

They refused to let Brown be a drag on the franchise any longer. They refused to allow his immaturity to intrude on the franchise’s feel-good season in a meaningful manner.

By the time the confetti dropped from the ceiling of the arena following the team’s Game 6 victory over the Bulls last Friday night, Brown was off the radar, as he should have been.

And as he would be today, if not for the injury to Thomas.

The fortitude of Grunfeld and Jordan has been tested anew.

Theirs is the right call.

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