As reporters jostled for position around Kwame Brown, the Washington Wizards’ rookie forward pointed something out even before the first question was fired.
“I’m averaging more minutes than Kobe and just a few less than Kevin,” Brown said, referring to the playing time of Kobe Bryant and Kevin Garnett as rookies.
He’s right: Bryant averaged 15.5 minutes for the Lakers during his rookie season, while Garnett played almost 29 minutes for the Minnesota Timberwolves as a rookie. Brown, who sat out four games with a sprained right ankle and has appeared in three, checks in at 26 minutes a game.
But Brown knows that he has to cut down on his mistakes particularly on defense to stay in coach Doug Collins’ rotation even though most of the miscues are a result of inexperience.
“I’m just a step late for everything,” Brown said. “It’s like, I know what to do, and we go over and over and over it in practice. We’re supposed to trap screen and roll and this and that. Then we’ll run it and I’m late. I’m late on everything. It’s one or the other on defense. Either I’m late, or I’m not trapping aggressively.”
The first Wizards player taken with the top pick in the draft, Brown is not overly proud of his numbers: 5.7 points and 4.3 rebounds a game. That his five blocked shots are a team high is more an indictment of his team than something to boast about.
“I’ll be a lot happier when we start to win some games,” Brown said.
Ending their four-game losing streak tonight won’t be easy.
The Wizards (2-4) face the Milwaukee Bucks (4-1), a team many picked to win the Eastern Conference even before it added forward Anthony Mason, an All Star last season with the Miami Heat. And it doesn’t get any easier after that; the Wizards’ next four games are all against playoff teams.
With power forwards like Mason and Utah’s Karl Malone making stops at MCI Center this week, Collins knows Brown is going to see some aspects of the NBA game that only experience can teach.
However, Brown’s inexperience is just part of the team’s problems along the frontline. Center Etan Thomas, who missed all of last season with a foot injury, is being asked to play a major role this year.
As a result, Collins is teaching his players defense almost from square one.
“The principles are in; it’s now getting the guys to trust it. They just have to do what they’re supposed to do, and the guy behind you is supposed to cover for you,” Collins said. “But there is an indecision of guys not trusting each other. I don’t mean that in a negative way. If teammate needs help, then you’ve got to be willing to give it to him. Guys in the NBA game are just too good. You can’t play them by themselves, so there has to be help.
“Screen-and-roll basketball is the basis of NBA basketball. And right now teams are just picking us apart.”
Said Thomas: “Coach has tried to pound that into our heads. We see what he’s saying, but it’s harder to accomplish on the court. It will come.”
The Wizards’ biggest weaknesses right now are defense and rebounding, in that order. Collins knows rebounding is something that can be accomplished through desire, that entire practices can’t be spent preaching the virtues of rebounding.
Yesterday he changed the practice format so that the team is spending “about 80 percent” of time working on defense.
Notes Collins rewarded rookie forward Bobby Simmons with 21 minutes because he worked hard and Simmons responded with 13 points on 5-for-6 shooting against Seattle. Collins said Simmons will continue to get more time.
“He’s showing signs that he can be one of the better post-up players on the roster,” Collins said.