- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 16, 2001

During the second half of the Washington Wizards' 99-79 victory Saturday over the Miami Heat, top pick Kwame Brown crumpled to the floor when he accidentally stepped on another player's foot, resulting in a mildly sprained ankle.
Brown was helped from the floor and took a seat on the bench next to Michael Jordan, the man primarily responsible for drafting him. But rather than laughing and joking with the rookie, as he had been doing with his other teammates during the rout, Jordan told Brown to get back on the court and play.
"Michael said to him, 'Lace that thing up and play. I've played with 45 ankles worse than that,'" Wizards coach Doug Collins recalled. "So he got back up and he went out and played."
That's how it's going to be for Brown this year. The Wizards simply don't have a lot of depth on their front line. Jahidi White, who is nursing tendinitis in his left knee and is listed as day-to-day, is the team's only returning true center with any NBA experience. And the Wizards are also thin at power forward, where Christian Laettner's only veteran relief will come from Popeye Jones and, when his surgically repaired back permits, Loy Vaught.
This means the Wizards will not have the luxury of easing Brown into the lineup like the Los Angles Lakers did with Kobe Bryant, who like Brown skipped college and went straight to the NBA. Bryant started just six games as a rookie in 1996-97 and played just under 16 minutes a game.
Instead, look for Brown's first year in the NBA to more closely resemble that of Minnesota Timberwolves forward Kevin Garnett. As a rookie in 1995-96, Garnett started 43 games and averaged almost 29 minutes a game.
"If I shelter him and never let him stub his toe, he's not going to find out reality," Collins said. "It's like being an overprotective parent. At some point you're going to get knocked down. I'd much rather it occur early rather than later so that he's aware of what he has to do."
Brown said he is not interested in how extensively he is used. Although he and Bryant share the same agent, Arn Tellem, Brown has never talked to Bryant about his first year in the league.
"I know that he had some problems, but each situation is different," Brown said. "I just want to make sure that I'm ready to go when the season starts. If I start or come off the bench that's not very important to me. What's important is that when they turn to me I'm ready to make a contribution."
Jordan's addition to the Wizards' roster has given the team plenty of depth in the backcourt. In Jordan, Richard Hamilton and Courtney Alexander, they match up well with other teams at shooting guard. And Chris Whitney, Tyronn Lue and Hubert Davis solidify the point.
But there simply isn't that type of depth in a Wizards frontcourt in which Brown, Brendan Haywood and Etan Thomas, all locks to make the team, have yet to play one NBA game. And because of Brown's combination of size, quickness and strength, the Wizards realize they are going to have to let him take his lumps against players like Chris Webber, Tim Duncan and Karl Malone.
"I want to put him in positions where he can be successful, obviously," Collins said, "but I don't want to say I don't want him to play against this guy or this guy because he's really good."
One of Collins' plans in the preseason is to try to make sure that Brown gets as much playing time as possible with Jordan. He also has made a point of playing Brown with Laettner and Jones. However, he also played Brown and Haywood for extended stretches against the Heat's Alonzo Mourning and Brian Grant. And in the preseason opener, a 95-85 loss to Detroit, Collins kept Haywood and Brown on the court in the fourth quarter when the Pistons put their starters back in in an effort to win the game.
"Kwame and our big guys are young, but they're going to get minutes this season," Collins said. "We have to get the most out of them as soon as possible."
White had the knee X-rayed yesterday and it won't be known until today if he can participate in the team's free scrimmage today at MCI Center for area workers involved in the relief efforts at the Pentagon following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. … Haywood wore a cast on his left thumb and had it X-rayed yesterday. His status for today's game is also uncertain.

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