- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 4, 2005

Skipping a couple of practices, a meeting with your bosses and a playoff game — and getting suspended for all that — is not something you want on your resume, especially when your career to date has posed more questions than answers.

Yet that’s what the Washington Wizards’ Kwame Brown has done. Brown, the No. 1 pick of the 2001 draft who has played inconsistently in his four years as a pro, is scheduled to become a restricted free agent at the end of the season.

In November, Brown turned down a five-year, $30 million deal with the Wizards, signaling that he planned to test the free agent waters. With the offer likely off the table, a life preserver might come in handy now. A suspension for turning your back on your team in a hissy fit during the playoffs is not the cleverest marketing ploy.

“I don’t know who’s advising him, but that’s not the right call,” Turner Sports commentator and former NBA player Steve Kerr dryly noted.

Asked about Brown’s marketability, Kerr said, “It’s way down from where it was four days ago. I think people were still intrigued with him. I saw him in Game 1 against the Bulls, and he went around anybody he wanted. … Somebody will give him a shot, for sure.”

However, an Eastern Conference general manager who asked that his name not be used said, “The rumor around the league is that he just doesn’t love basketball. And you have to ask yourself if his skills have gotten any better since he was drafted. He was drafted for his upside, but that doesn’t mean anything when a player doesn’t realize his upside. And that’s not a knock on [Wizards coach] Eddie [Jordan] or [president of basketball operations] Ernie [Grunfeld].”

Brown played four minutes in the Wizards’ Game 3 playoff victory over Chicago on Saturday, then disappeared. He missed Sunday’s practice, and Monday he missed a pregame shoot-around, an afternoon meeting with Grunfeld and Jordan and, finally, the Game 4 win. The team said Brown had some sort of stomach problem.

“I think that hurts more than anything,” Kerr said. “In the playoffs, you don’t quit on your teammates, no matter what. You have to at least show up. When you don’t, that raises the biggest question.”

Another general manager said, incredulously, “He did that after a win? That really is amazing.”

Brown also was suspended by Jordan for one game earlier this season for walking away from a huddle.

The second general manager, who also preferred to remain anonymous, said half to two-thirds of the NBA probably would not consider acquiring the 6-foot-11 Brown through free agency or a trade. But that still leaves several teams that might.

“I think people would give him a chance, but I’m not sure anyone would invest too much in him,” he said. “It’ll be interesting to see what happens. I’m not saying he’s washed-up. I think he’ll be in the league next year. I just don’t know if anybody’s gonna throw a bunch of money at him.

“I think Kwame’s got a lot of talent, but he’s got a questionable work ethic and a questionable basketball IQ and a questionable off-the-court lifestyle.”

Brown was arrested for speeding after he was clocked at 120 mph in 2002. The next year, he was charged with DUI. Both incidents occurred in his home state of Georgia, where he starred at Brunswick’s Glynn Academy and became, at 19, the first high school player ever taken No. 1 in the draft.

Michael Jordan, then the Wizards’ director of basketball operations, made the pick. Brown, subjected to the sometimes heavy-handed approach of Michael Jordan and then-coach Doug Collins, struggled during his first two years in the league. The next two seasons, under the less-confrontational Eddie Jordan, still were marked by inconsistency and injury. His occasional big games provided a flashing, teasing notion of what he might become.

“People think he’s got talent,” another anonymous general manager said. “They also think he’s got problems. The feeling out there is that he doesn’t work hard. But someone will take a chance on him because he’s big and talented, even though he didn’t play to his ability.”

Staff writer John N. Mitchell contributed to this article.

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