- The Washington Times - Monday, December 20, 2004

The Wizards are waiting on Kwame Brown to impose his 7-foot presence on the proceedings in a more measurable manner.

His remains the open question of the franchise, which is in its most encouraging state in a generation.

A 13-9 record is tempered only by the lack of a sustained option around the basket.

The team’s most worthy players — Antawn Jamison, Gilbert Arenas and Larry Hughes — happen to do their most effective work on the perimeter.

Brendan Haywood is an occasional antidote to the torrent of shots coming from the outside. Brown is the more compelling alternative, assuming he ever accepts the burden of responsibility.

Up to now, Brown is both victim and victimizer. One of these seasons, he is going to have to explain himself and leave everyone else out of it, which includes Doug Collins, Michael Jordan and anyone else who has given him a hard time in his four seasons in the NBA.

Brown is the one player who could contribute to the completeness of the Wizards. He is a genuine 7-footer — despite his list height of 6-11 — who has added a significant amount of muscle. He has all the physical tools to be what the first Jordan envisioned.

The quality of his head is forever in doubt. Brown appears to have accepted the limitations of his early-season role, perhaps because he is still rounding into shape after breaking a bone in his left foot in the offseason that caused him to miss the first 12 games of the season.

For now, that leaves the Wizards in the image of the one-time Mavericks, once overly dependent on the perimeter assault of Dirk Nowitzki, Michael Finley and Steve Nash. That is not necessarily an unappealing prospect, as the Mavericks once showed. The downside is an inability to finish the tougher assignments in the NBA.

This is embodied in the Heat’s four-game sweep of the Wizards this season.

No team is in a position to neutralize Shaquille O’Neal. But the most serious teams are able to forge a compromise with him.

The Wizards have to find a way to satisfy their run-happy, perimeter-based proclivities while integrating the post players into their attack. It is not an easy proposition, especially with a team so young and a bevy of post players so reluctant. At least the Wizards do not have Shawn Bradley in the mix.

The Wizards have a Big Three and a small nexus.

This is not to overlook Haywood’s improvement. He is more active on defense, his rebounding totals are up, and he actually has developed a move or two on offense. In the end, though, he is destined to be a supporting part to the three players essentially averaging 20 points apiece.

The subservience does not necessarily extend to Brown, whose natural gifts and skills demand a greater role. But that is up to him, despite his occasional protests to the contrary. He has to want the ball. He has to get over the tag-team days of Collins and Jordan and all his perceived slights in the national press.

Brown also has to remember this fundamental aspect of the NBA: Coaches yell. That is what they get paid to do. They rarely mean anything by it. It is just part of the game. You might yell, too, if you were always one game away from being fired.

As it is, the Wizards are a team on the rise, their legitimacy showing in bits and pieces, most recently in the overtime victory against the Lakers.

To be a whole team, however, the Wizards must find more production from their post players.

Some nights, as it was in Miami a week ago, the basket looks tiny and a team’s outside shots cause undue harm to the orange cylinder. An able post player minimizes the inevitable scourge of shooting so many perimeter shots in strange backgrounds.

Brown could be that player, if he ever decides he truly wants to be.

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