- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Ernie Grunfeld initiated the rehabilitation process of Kwame Brown yesterday, if only because it promises to benefit the Wizards this summer.

Grunfeld noted the obvious with Brown: He is a 7-footer who is athletic. Then he put Brown’s potential suitors on notice.

“There is a possibility that he will be back with us next season,” Grunfeld said.

Later, Grunfeld said, “Time heals a lot of wounds. Everybody deserves a second chance. Time will tell what direction we’ll go as a franchise.”

Grunfeld is waiting on the other 29 NBA teams to measure just how committed he is to Brown, the No. 1 pick overall in the 2001 draft who quit on his team in the first round of the playoffs this month.

For now, Grunfeld is obligated to talk up the possibilities of the 23-year-old product of Glynn Academy in Brunswick, Ga.

Grunfeld is not about to let Brown, a restricted free agent, jump to another team without receiving worthwhile compensation from the competing party.

Grunfeld only can hope that three or four teams line up in hot pursuit of Brown, which, in effect, would increase the likelihood of the Wizards landing a viable frontcourt player in return.

There is always someone just desperate enough to think that all Brown needs is a change in scenery to fulfill his promise of stardom.

With the proper nurturing and leadership, Brown will become tougher mentally and more dedicated to the game.

That is one theory, and certainly one Grunfeld does not object to fostering at the moment. Why, if it helps pique the interest of potential suitors, Grunfeld could envision Brown becoming a 10-time All-Star. You just never know about one so fragile and relatively young.

Of course, it probably does not help the process to point out that Brown has received failing marks from two antithetical regimes: the tough-love approach of Doug Collins and Michael Jordan and the business-like, keep-it-in-the-locker-room manner of Grunfeld and Eddie Jordan.

With Brown, you can hold his hand and whisper sweet-nothings into his ear. You can buy him a box of chocolates and take him on moonlit walks.

Yet regardless of management style, Brown eventually has to demonstrate a modicum of commitment and professionalism, a willingness to bust a gut and an acknowledgement that the four-year problem rests with him.

Grunfeld expressed the notion that Brown, if he returns, could win back the team’s supporters with productivity on the court and a greater sense of awareness. Brown became the target of boos as his missed assignments on defense became harder to ignore late in the season.

Grunfeld is not about to dwell on Brown’s negatives now. No, he sees the raw talent, the body, the flashes. And he hopes the rest of the NBA sees it as well.

Grunfeld seemingly was doing the work of Arn Tellem, Brown’s agent who has been unresponsive since Brown’s implosion, perhaps because he is holed up at Dick Cheney’s undisclosed location or came down with Brown’s “stomach virus.”

All you know with certainty is one of Tellem’s clients self-destructs in the playoffs and he utters not a word.

Nothing. Silence.

No attempt at damage control. No claim of his client being woefully misunderstood. Nothing about Brown helping little old ladies cross busy intersections. Not even a photocopy of a doctor’s permission slip showing that Brown’s “stomach virus” was a mutant strain that left him incapacitated.

Grunfeld, in rote fashion, stuck to Brown’s positives in his state-of-the-franchise address with the Washington media.

He is a 7-footer, he is athletic and he has had moments that tantalize.

“You don’t want to give up on someone,” Grunfeld said.

And Grunfeld is not about give up on Brown this summer.

And unlike Tellem, Grunfeld’s phone line is open.

Let’s talk personnel. Let’s share a laugh.

By the way, have you heard about Brown’s body?

It sure looks good in a basketball uniform.

It can be yours in a like-kind exchange.

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