- The Washington Times - Monday, November 8, 2004

This was supposed to be the most important season of Kwame Brown’s career.

It’s turning into the most frustrating.

Brown, who is in the last year of his contract, had surgery on his right foot during the summer and was expected to miss the first few games of the season. But he was dealt a setback last week when he sprained his left ankle during the shootaround before Thursday’s game in Charlotte.

Brown yesterday said he likely won’t suit up for the Wizards (2-1) until December.

“The diagnosis was to start practicing at the end of this month,” said Brown, who claims the injured fifth metatarsal on his right foot is almost completely healed. “I don’t see why I shouldn’t be able to because the right foot is feeling pretty good. This [ankle injury] set me back.”

Coming off his best season — he averaged 10.9 points and 7.4 rebounds last season — Brown hoped to use this season to showcase his often-questioned skills. As a result, the power forward, who in 2001 became the first high school player selected with the No.1 pick in the draft, did not accept the Wizards’ four-year, $30million contract extension last month, according to a source with knowledge of the situation.

He hasn’t run full speed or jumped since having surgery on his right foot on Aug.3. At the time of the injury, the Wizards’ front office predicted Brown would be available to play at the start of training camp in early October.

The Wizards’ frontcourt also has been depleted by the absence of backup center Etan Thomas, who suffered an abdominal injury during training camp and isn’t expected back until December, and starting center Brendan Haywood, who missed the first three games because of a suspension (fighting).

The Wizards’ lack of depth in the middle was exploited Saturday in a 118-106 home-opening loss to Miami. The Heat, whom the Wizards play again tomorrow, made 43 of 77 shots from the floor (55.8 percent) and scored 52 points in the paint.

“We’re in a bad way,” Wizards coach Eddie Jordan said Saturday night. “I like the way we’re playing right now. But with the injuries and the suspensions right now we’re getting stretched to the limit.”

And yet the Wizards didn’t offer Brown a better deal than the $30million over four years. The deal was even less appealing because, according to a source, the Wizards didn’t include an option for a fifth season, something Brown and his representative wanted.

Brown will be a free agent at the end of the season, but the Wizards will still have the opportunity to top any deal from another team. Brown yesterday said his first choice is to remain in Washington and help build a winner.

“Oh, yeah,” Brown said. “Now that we have what we have I don’t see why we can’t keep this thing together. We’ve just got to stop sending players here and there and keep the foundation. Since I’ve been here we’ve had new faces every year.

“You get accustomed to [Jerry Stackhouse] and all these different guys and then the next year they’re gone. Now we have [Antawn] Jamison, Gilbert [Arenas] — Larry [Hughes’] contract is up but hopefully we’ll keep him — and hopefully we’ll get better. With playoff teams you don’t have three different guys shuffling in and out every year. Hopefully we can get a core group and just stick with it.”

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