- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 3, 2007

With the Los Angeles Lakers in town today to face the Washington Wizards, there couldn’t be a better time to revisit the Kwame Brown-for-Caron Butler deal of Aug. 2, 2005.While both teams have improved since the deal, there’s no question — particularly after Butler was named a reserve on the Eastern Conference All-Star team on Thursday — that the Wizards to this point got the better of the trade.Butler, selected by Miami with the 10th overall pick in 2002 — one year after the Wizards made Brown the first high school player in history to be taken with the top pick — is emerging as one of the best forwards in the East. He’s averaging career highs in five different categories, including scoring (20.6), rebounding (8.0) and assists (3.9).The 6-foot-7 Butler, acquired along with since-departed Chucky Atkins, leads the Wizards in double-doubles this season and is the only player in the Eastern Conference averaging at least 20 points and eight rebounds.The 6-11 Brown, whom the Wizards traded along with Laron Profit, remains a chiseled enigma who looks like Karl Malone before the tip but more closely resembles Paul Mokeski after the ball goes up.Dogged by injuries, Brown, who posted career-high numbers of 10.9 points and 7.4 rebounds for the Wizards in the 2004-05 season, is averaging 8.7 points, 6.6 rebounds and 1.21 blocks this year.The Lakers have listed Brown as inactive for the last seven games (sprained right shoulder). And when he does return it is questionable whether Brown, who has appeared in 24 games and made just 17 starts, will be able to crack the starting lineup.To date, the Butler acquisition has been one of the best trades in franchise history. In fact, the only trade the franchise has made that clearly was better than that deal was when the Baltimore Bullets acquired Hall of Famer and Elvin Hayes from Houston on April 13, 1972, in exchange for journeyman Jack Marin and future considerations.Before he came to Washington in 2003, Wizards president of basketball operations Ernie Grunfeld put together the New York Knicks teams that reached the NBA Finals in 1994 and in the strike-shortened 1998-99 season. Grunfeld also played a large role in building the 2001 Milwaukee Bucks, who narrowly missed reaching the finals.Grunfeld was fired in what was perhaps his best year as a general manager. The second time the Knicks went to the finals, Grunfeld traded New York favorites Charles Oakley and John Starks for Marcus Camby and Latrell Sprewell.And while in Milwaukee, Grunfeld took shooting guard Michael Redd with the 43rd pick in the 2000 draft.In his first order of business, slightly more than a month into his tenure with the Wizards, Grunfeld signed Gilbert Arenas.The following summer he orchestrated the deal that unloaded Jerry Stackhouse and Christian Laettner for Antawn Jamison, who developed into an All-Star his first season in the District.And he locked up Butler to a five-year, $50 million deal before the 2005-06 season began.Butler addressed his acquisition yesterday following practice at Verizon Center, and as usual he was humble and diplomatic, especially when asked which team got the better of the deal.”The Wizards did pretty good,” Butler said. “I would say that.”

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