- The Washington Times - Friday, July 19, 2002

BOSTON Kwame Brown, who had not spoken to the media since the Washington Wizards opened minicamp last week, ended his silence yesterday following the team's 81-69 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves at Shaw's Pro Summer League.
Brown, playing in his first game since straining his left groin Saturday, said he hadn't talked to reporters because he didn't want to discuss his arrest last spring for driving 120 mph in a construction zone. And he wanted to play a game before talking about anything.
The fact that he averaged 4.5 points last season, the worst by a No.1 draft pick in the last 29 years, didn't factor in his silence. Brown indicated that he was ready to put last season behind him.
"In the beginning, it was difficult, but all that is a blur now," Brown said. "At the end of the season, I remember how comfortable I felt and how exciting it was to go out and have confidence. More important for me is, I have to keep motivated and keep my confidence up. Once I'm feeling confident, I think I can do just about anything."
Yesterday Brown scored six points and grabbed five rebounds in 18 minutes.
Reflecting on last season, Brown said his play reminded him of his first year of high school in that "I was horrible." However, he believes that this is the season when things start to break his way.
"When I was in high school, I didn't have any footwork," Brown said. "The same was true last year. But in high school, I got better after every year. If there is a lesson that I can take from that, it is that it's not where you're at but where you are going to be. I think if I continue to grow, I'll be fine.
"This year I plan on having a better season than I had last year," continued Brown, who also averaged just 3.5 rebounds. "If I keep growing, I'm sure I'll be fine. Some guys max out early and peak. I don't. I'm going to keep working to do better."
Wizards assistant Brian James, who is coaching the summer league team, knew that Brown, who hadn't practiced since Saturday, wouldn't have his wind or his timing yesterday. When Brown picked up his third foul in the second quarter after playing just seven minutes James noticed Brown's shoulders slump.
But Brown pulled himself together in the second half, collecting only one foul. He also showed more energy, rejecting a layup that stirred the crowd at Clark Athletic Center and hammering home a dunk late in the game.
"He hasn't done a lot on the court," James said. "So I kind of spurred him on in the last six minutes a little bit, trying to motivate him, and he played a lot better down the stretch. I expect him to get much, much better in the last two games."
Brown uses as models Kobe Bryant and Tracy McGrady, NBA players who also skipped college. They struggled at first and eventually evolved into stars. Brown seems to realize that stardom, if it does come to him, won't happen overnight.
"That's what I'm banking on. I'm not banking on coming out and scoring a million points and being great because I was the number one pick," he said. "I just want to come out and play hard, contribute as much as I can. I have a great supporting cast, and I don't have to do it all."
But Brown knows that he is under a magnifying glass. He will be labeled a bust if he does not begin to show improvement this year.
From a physical and mental standpoint Brown thinks he is ready to take the next step in his development.
"I think I'm a lot smarter," Brown said. "Last year I had quick feet but I couldn't use them because I didn't know what to do with them. Now my footwork is a lot better. I'm a little more patient. Once I get my timing back and work within the offense and let the game come to me, then I'll be able to show the things I've been working on. I'm forgetting all about that number one pick stuff and the expectations."
Notes The Wizards improved their summer league record to 2-2 by racing to a 20-point lead in the first half against Minnesota and cruising in the second. Etan Thomas led the Wizards with 15 points and 14 rebounds. Juan Dixon had 16 points and six assists. He also committed five turnovers.
The Wizards will be on ESPN, ESPN2 and TNT 13 times this season. Washington opens the season at Toronto on Oct.30 and faces Boston at MCI Center the next day. The NBA champion Los Angles Lakers are the sixth opponent of the season, coming to town Nov.8.

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