- The Washington Times - Monday, October 6, 2003

CHARLESTON, S.C. — Over the last two seasons, Christian Laettner has been both friend and foe to Kwame Brown.

Laettner, an 11-year veteran, has sent Brown to the bench with his superior grasp of how to play the game. However, Laettner, more than anyone since the Wizards lost Popeye Jones to free agency following the 2001-02 season, has been Brown’s sounding board when others have tuned him out.

Now Laettner, entering his third year with the Wizards, hopes this is the season where he goes from mentoring the former top pick to marveling at him.

“I think Kwame could be dominant,” said Laettner, at 34 the oldest player on the roster. “In terms of Kwame, I think the only thing he needs is minutes. Even if he has a couple of bad games in a row you need to keep giving that kid minutes because he’s so big and strong and quick and explosive. Kwame really has so much to work with.”

Last season Brown was visibly shaken when he was removed from the starting lineup. At the time, Brown said he thought he was the franchise’s cornerstone but wasn’t being treated that way.

But this year things could be different. Coach Eddie Jordan isn’t promising anyone they will just be given minutes, promising instead that minutes will go to players who earn them.

However, there is a greater likelihood this season that both Brown and Laettner will see plenty of playing time together. Jordan has made it clear he might try Brown at center with Laettner playing forward.

“They’re both forwards in our system,” Jordan said. “I’m still trying to learn my team. But they both have different qualities. Christian is smart and intelligent. The question is will he be physical in the paint? Will he bring a strong rebounding presence? If we need that then maybe we’ll have to look somewhere else.”

Like to Brown. Brendan Haywood is the acknowledged starter at center. But in those instances when Jordan wants to put Brown and Laettner on the floor at the same time, It will be the 6-foot-11 Brown, who now tips the scales at a solid 259 pounds, bodying up with the other team’s center.

Laettner, in fact, wants Brown to stop viewing him as his competition.

“I’m always telling Kwame that it’s not you always competing against me,” Laettner said. “It’s not either you’re the four man or I’m the four man. We can play together out there.”

Laettner, along with other veterans, feel Jordan will be good for Brown this season.

“He got down on himself,” said Laettner of Brown’s first two seasons. “The coaches that we had last year really got down on him.”

Although he is now the team’s oldest player, Laettner, who said last season he did not care whether he started or came off the bench, wants to play an integral role for the Wizards this season. He is quick to point out last season was his best rebounding season (6.6 avg.) in about five years.

Although he didn’t try to lose any weight over the summer, Laettner says he is about seven pounds lighter than the 245 he’s listed at. And right now he feels fresh.

“I want to play and I want to play as many minutes as I can,” Laettner said. “I’m a player, I’m competitive and that’s what I want to do.”

Notes — The Wizards released Steve Goodrich, Kris Lang and Kenny Satterfield, reducing their roster to 15 players. Teams can carry 15 players on the roster at the start of the season, but they can have only 12 on the active roster.

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