- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 1, 2005

Winning cures many things and erases a lot of memories — both good and bad.

Washington Wizards forward Kwame Brown is a perfect example.

While Brown’s play in the second half of last season was one of the few bright spots in a 25-57 campaign that many Wizards would just as soon forget, the team’s success this season has made Brown’s 29-game absence because of injuries largely irrelevant.

Irrelevant, that is, unless you are talking to a member of the Wizards, losers of their last two games and a perimeter team still in need of improved interior defense and offense that only big men can provide.

“Absolutely,” Wizards coach Eddie Jordan said yesterday when asked whether the Wizards missed Brown, expected to be out at least another two-to-three weeks as his strained right ankle mends. “He can be our best post defender and our best post scorer. Right now all he can do is try to get healthy. It’s a long process, but we want to make sure that when he does return he’s healthy.”

Brown took treatment yesterday while his teammates prepared for tonight’s game at MCI Center against Detroit and was not available to talk after practice. The Wizards (26-17) are off to their best start since they began the 1978-79 season 27-12.

Last season Brown posted career highs in both points (10.9) and rebounds (7.4) and along the way served notice that his game was maturing. Brown, whom the Wizards made the first high school player selected with the first pick in the NBA Draft in 2001, appeared on the verge of having a breakout season.

While his play remained inconsistent, Brown showed flashes down the stretch. He scored 30 points and grabbed 19 rebounds against former Washington star Chris Webber and had a standout performance against Indiana’s Jermaine O’Neal, scoring 25 points to go with nine rebounds.

It seemed Brown was headed in the right direction, especially after the well-publicized bumps and bruises his ego suffered during his first two seasons in the league.

But after late-summer surgery on his right foot put Brown way behind schedule — he didn’t play in his first game until Dec. 1 — he has faced one setback after the other.

Brown turned down a four-year, $30 million contract extension late last year, confident that his play would boost his value on the open market next summer when he becomes a restricted free agent with Larry Bird rights (meaning the Wizards can go over the salary cap and pay more than anyone to retain his services).

Yesterday, Wizards president of basketball operations Ernie Grunfeld sounded as if he wants Brown to be a member of the Wizards beyond this season.

“It’s been a frustrating year for Kwame with the injuries,” Grunfeld said. “Last year you could see a significant jump in his play. We were expecting for him to make another jump similar to that this year.

“Think about it. How valuable would he be to us if he made the same type of progress this season? He would be having a terrific year. For him, the most important thing is for him to come back healthy so he can help us.”

Perhaps no other player on the current roster would like to see Brown’s 6-foot-11, 270-pound frame backing down opposing players and grabbing rebounds than forward Antawn Jamison.

Jamison has not missed a game in four seasons, and tonight he will play his 372nd consecutive game. However, Jamison expected to spend significantly more time at small forward this season. Jordan envisioned his ideal frontline with Jamison at small forward alongside Brown and center Brendan Haywood, but Brown’s absence has forced Jamison to spend much more time playing power forward.

As a result, Jamison is starting to show signs of fatigue.

Like others, Jamison thought his addition to the team would allow Brown to blossom under less pressure.

“I saw it when he got drafted,” Jamison said of the pressure Brown was soon to face. “That’s a lot of pressure. There is a lot of pressure on me in the situation I’m in, when people look at you to be a savior — the next Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett mixed together.

“It’s hard to do when you are not ready. It really puts you under the microscope. You can’t have fun, and you can tell that he really hasn’t had fun since he’s been here. But this is the NBA. A lot of people would die to be in this situation. It’s a business, but you need to have fun.”

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