- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 17, 2002

Kwame Brown is the future of the Wizards, however limited the future may be.

Brown is not out of time, just out of a free pass. The free pass was spent on last season. It was completed at the expense of the Wizards. It was their loss, too, 45 losses, in fact, buttressed by 37 victories.

Brown left his teens in March and his senses in the spring, at least as far as it goes with driving 120 mph in a construction zone.

Brown is a pleasant enough young man, unspoiled on the surface, if not unwise to the responsibilities ahead.

As the No. 1 pick overall in the 2001 NBA Draft, Brown is either blessed or cursed by his connection to Michael Jordan. He felt both extremes behind closed practice doors last season. This went with his education as a baby in a man's league.

Jordan's eye for talent is as open to interpretation as Brown's development. More time is necessary to evaluate both, the easy assessment.

Brown is the principal decoration in Jordan's executive suite, either as a slam dunk as envisioned or as a flop. There are no compromises with the top picks of the draft.

Brown is off to an unfavorable start, to say the least, and uncertain around the questions. You can tell by his recent reticency, often the last refuge of the self-conscious.

He has not learned the first lesson in media relations from Jordan, the master of the frivolous exchange. Address the topic, however intrusive, and then put it behind you.

Talk, after all, is cheap, the principal motivation to produce the next talk show.

Brown has missed the start of the Pro Summer League in Boston because of a bad left groin. That is another speed bump in Brown's path, and if only one were available before he hit 120 mph.

If anyone with the Wizards merits an extended amount of time in the gym, it is Brown. That prescription carries an exclamation point if Jordan is in a suit instead of short pants next winter.

The Wizards ended up in the vicinity of almost respectable with Jordan, and are almost hopeful if he has one more go-around in his shaky knees.

Otherwise, the franchise is stuck on the distant prospect of Brown and the one-trick qualities of Richard Hamilton, Brendan Haywood and Tyronn Lue.

Hamilton is a nice midrange shooter, Haywood a nice shot-blocker and Lue a nice antidote against the quickest. Etan Thomas is improving, the same as Bobby Simmons, if the two add up to one significant piece.

The rest of the pieces add up to whatever, and that's being kind to Jahidi White's hands of stone and Christian Laettner's feet of stone.

The recent draft picks, notably Jared Jeffries and Juan Dixon, are excluded from the offseason roster check, their initial capacity to lift doubtful.

Brown is the prize of the bunch, if he still counts as a prize. His modest numbers last season tested the patience of those who expected more from him, though not a whole lot more.

Doug Collins, who can analyze a player's development with the best, elected to be sparing on the subject of Brown during the team's minicamp last weekend. Brown was hurt again, the hurt possibly precipitated by a lack of conditioning. Two hurts would make a wrong in this case.

Collins refused to play doctor and link the two, if only because this is the offseason and the games missed are not felt in the standings.

Collins shifted the question to Brown, an act of faith with someone who is not taking questions.

Brown failed to grasp the sense of purpose going into the NBA last season. In a way, that was to be expected from someone so unprepared and miscast. His lack of might was a luxury, easily indulged around Jordan's return.

No more.

Consider the end of minicamp to be the end of Brown's honeymoon.

The Wizards need help just about everywhere, starting with a real contribution from Brown.

Another season from Jordan is necessary as well.

Brown has completed one year of a three-year contract worth $11.9 million. The first year was on the Wizards. He is obligated to earn the rest.


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