- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 13, 2003

Washington Wizards forward Kwame Brown isn’t going to pen a literary masterpiece like Keyshawn Johnson’s “Just Give Me the Damn Ball,” but that is exactly how the former No.1 NBA draft pick is feeling these days.

“Sometimes I do jumping jacks in the lane, and I still don’t get the ball,” Brown said yesterday. “I’ve been running the floor, but I haven’t been getting noticed.”

This is supposed to be the season that Brown begins serving notice that before the arrival of LeBron James it was he — not Kevin Garnett, Kobe Bryant, Tracy McGrady or Jermaine O’Neal — who had the distinction of being the first high school player taken No.1 in the draft.

But Brown is struggling again for the Wizards, just as he did in his first two seasons when he couldn’t escape the scowls of Michael Jordan or sharp tongue of former coach Doug Collins.

Brown has not been jerked out of the starting lineup, as he was last December in favor of Christian Laettner, but Etan Thomas has playing the crucial minutes down the stretch instead.

Coach Eddie Jordan is not talking about benching Brown, but as evidenced by the benching of Brendan Haywood last week, Jordan isn’t afraid to make a change, especially if a player isn’t giving an effort and is making mental errors.

“You can see if a guy is on a cloud or if a guy is trying,” Jordan said. “If you’re not trying and you’re on a cloud, you’re coming out. If you’re trying and you made a mistake, then I understand that. But don’t make that mistake we just talked about in practice, then make it again in the game.”

One thing the Wizards don’t want Brown to get caught up in is trying to put up big offensive numbers. Brown sounds like he understands this, but he contradicts himself.

“I know this team wasn’t built for Kwame Brown,” he said. “I’m not going to be concerned about my numbers. Anybody can get 20 [points]. It can be a good season or it can be about numbers, we all know that. But do I need the ball more for us to win? Yeah. I’m not knocking the guards, but when they get into a drought, they need to find somebody else.

“It’s nothing to get frustrated about,” continued Brown, who is averaging 7.0 points and 6.3 rebounds. “It’s not going to stay the same. If you don’t have a post presence, you are not going to win. You have to start the games with it and end the games with it.”

Brown forever will be bound to players like Chicago’s Tyson Chandler and Eddy Curry, taken in the same draft class as Brown out of high school with the second and fourth picks, respectively. At the moment, both are playing better than Brown, who is signed through next season.

Curry is averaging 13 points and six rebounds while playing a shade under 30 minutes for the Bulls. Chandler, who has battled back discomfort this season, has averaged 12.8 points and 13 rebounds in less than 32 minutes.

Thomas also is outperforming Brown while getting fewer minutes, averaging 8.0 points and a team-high 8.0 rebounds in 24.9 minutes. This compares to Brown’s 7.0 points and 6.3 boards in 26.3 minutes. Thomas also has blocked a team-high 13 shots compared to two for Brown.

Jordan said Thomas does what he does with having a play called for him maybe “once every three games,” the implication being that he gets points as the result of hard work. However, Jordan, who doesn’t like to single out any of his players for doing something either too well or too poorly, did break it down to basics.

“There is an equal opportunity involved in the offense,” he said, “and the best players usually find ways to be good no matter what you are running. The players who have the skills, who have the desire, who have the toughness, who have basketball feel. The best players, no matter what you run, will step up and play.”

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