- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 18, 2001

If 19-year-old Kwame Brown blossoms into the superstar the Washington Wizards think he can become, forward Popeye Jones thinks he'll be able to point to the exact time when that process received a jump-start.
So does coach Doug Collins. Michael Jordan? Ditto.
Following a humiliating 103-88 loss to San Antonio on Dec. 4, the team's second largest margin of defeat this season, Collins conducted one of those torturous practices that he was known for in his earlier days with Detroit as the Wizards, at the time losers of 11 of 13 games, prepared for the Houston Rockets.
"It was a real [back] busting practice," Jones recalled, "and Kwame took a beating. He had to go one-on-one with Jahidi [White] and that's not easy. Then we went three-on-three and he took another beating. I went at him hard and I told him 'it's time to grow up; it's not high school anymore.' Coach got on him, too. He thought the whole world was against him that day. He got frustrated, Coach told him to go sit down. From that day I think he's really realized what this whole thing is about."
Collins is not the type to hold his tongue, which is why Brown seemed stunned when Collins savaged him earlier in the season for not showing up in shape. And it is also one of the reasons why Brown's play has been sporadic. In fact, before he gave the surging Wizards nine points and 10 rebounds in 20 minutes Sunday in their sixth win in a row, 93-88 over Toronto, Brown had played all of 22 minutes combined in the team's previous five games.
But even before Christian Laettner suffered a broken left leg that will keep him out of the lineup for at least a month, Collins the top pick in the 1973 draft noticed that Brown's approach to practice had changed since that day in Houston.
"That practice has made a huge difference. I just told him to sit out the last 20 minutes," Collins said. "He was so flustered. Michael took him back and told him to understand one thing. '[Doug] is the guy who put his tail on the line for you, and he's a guy who wants you and will teach you.' Ever since then Kwame's been different. I've seen him go from being a boy to being a man."
Brown recalled some of those things Jordan talked about that day in Houston. But for the most part, Brown just listened
"Michael said some things and he was very serious," Brown said. "I was frustrated and Mike wasn't pulling any punches. He was straight to the point. The thing is, he doesn't like to lose and we were losing. That's what I took out of it. I was feeling sorry for myself and he let me know that nobody was going to feel sorry for me."
Jones paid close attention to Brown when he rejoined practice, and he says he has since seen a new player.
But even before then, a teacher/pupil bond had started to form between Jones, 31, and Brown, two players who seemingly have little in common. While Brown was the top pick in the 2001 draft, Jones was a second-round pick out of Murray State who wasn't expected to have a long career. Twice since 1997 he has had surgery on his left knee because of a complete tear of the anterior cruciate ligament, and lower back problems have plagued him as well.
As a result, Jones, who has missed 179 games in the last four seasons but has battled back to the point where Collins has no problem starting him as he did against Toronto, feels directly responsible for Brown's success and failure.
"I see the potential," Jones said. "I've told him my story about how I've been successful in the league. And he's got a lot more talent than I had. If you do your work, it will pay off. That's what it's done for me and he's starting to understand that."
Brown was clearly happy having contributed to the team's win Sunday. And there is the possibility that he might even start tomorrow against the Atlanta Hawks.
"I'm on a winning team and we've won six in a row, so that's where I am," Brown said. "I'm not worrying about anything individual. I'm just going out and trying to compete every day."

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