- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 4, 2005

The Washington Wizards suspended forward Kwame Brown yesterday for the rest of the playoffs for skipping a practice, a team shoot-around, a meeting with club officials and Monday night’s game against the Chicago Bulls.

The suspension followed a profanity-laced exchange between Brown and Wizards coach Eddie Jordan before practice yesterday, and it puts the future of the former No. 1 overall draft pick with the franchise in doubt.

“Coach Jordan and I met with Kwame this morning,” said Ernie Grunfeld, the team’s president of basketball operations. “The three of us felt it was best for both the Wizard organization and Kwame that he no longer participate in the remainder of the playoffs.

“The team will move forward in our participation in the playoffs, and we will have no further comment regarding this issue.”

Brown, 23, did not return several calls yesterday.

The Wizards, tied 2-2 with the Bulls in their first-round series, will play a pivotal Game 5 tonight in Chicago without Brown.

Multiple sources with the team and around the league said the decision was inevitable because of Brown’s violations of team rules in the days after the Wizards’ 117-99 victory over the Bulls in Game 3 on Saturday night, a game in which Brown played a season-low four minutes.

Brown missed practice the next afternoon, and the Wizards intended to suspend Brown for that reason, sources said.

Jordan told reporters at the time that the absence was excused because Brown had a stomach virus. However, sources said yesterday Brown was not excused from that practice but simply skipped it.

Jordan’s announcement immediately prompted speculation that Brown wasn’t sick, that he instead was protesting Jordan’s decision to limit his minutes in Saturday’s game.

After that game, Brown rushed from the locker room and was gone well before reporters were allowed inside.

Brown did not attend the Wizards’ pregame shoot-around Monday morning, and the team again told reporters Brown was sick. However, a team source confirmed Brown’s absence again was not excused.

Brown was scheduled to meet with Jordan and Grunfeld in the locker room at 3 p.m. Monday afternoon. However, two sources said Jordan received a call from Brown about 3:15 p.m. informing Jordan and Grunfeld that he would not attend the meeting.

Brown still was expected to be in uniform for Monday night’s Game 4 against the Bulls, a 106-99 Wizards victory. However, Brown did not attend, precipitating a heated exchange between Brown and Jordan in the locker room yesterday morning.

Jordan would not discuss details when he was asked whether Brown was sick at any time.

“It’s not a distraction for us,” Jordan said. “We’re a close-knit team, and we’re committed to winning. The press release says it all. I’m not talking about Kwame Brown right now.”

Brown’s teammates took the same attitude.

“I love Kwame. He’s like a little brother to me,” forward Antawn Jamison said. “But we’re a tight-knit family; we’re not going to let any outside influences distract this team whatsoever. We did a great job with it earlier in the year, and we’re not going to stop dealing with it now.”

A team source said star guard Gilbert Arenas, who bickered with Brown over shot selection last season, visited Brown at his house over the weekend in an effort to win his cooperation in the postseason.

Brown was suspended for one game early in the season after he refused to join a team huddle. In March, Brown argued with center Brendan Haywood on the bench during a game, forcing teammates to separate them.

The suspension leaves Brown’s future with the Wizards uncertain.

Brown will be a restricted free agent this summer, giving the Wizards the right to match any offer made to Brown by another team.

However, his value on the free agent market already was in question because of his failure to improve in his first four seasons in the league.

One Eastern Conference general manager, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said it was disappointing that Brown would become a problem when the Wizards were in the playoffs for only the second time since 1988.

“It doesn’t look good when you are in a playoff battle and the No. 1 pick in the draft is acting like this,” he said.

In 2001, Brown became the first high school player in league history to be selected with the top pick in the draft. However, he hasn’t come close to living up to his draft status.

Last season Brown had his best year as a pro, averaging career highs in points (10.9) and rebounds (7.4).

Brown has been a disappointment this season. Following offseason foot surgery, he appeared in just 42 regular-season games and averaged 7.0 points and 4.9 rebounds. He has been booed by fans at MCI Center frustrated by his lack of progress.

Arenas, a first-time All-Star this season who appears to be on his way to superstardom, was selected by the Golden State Warriors that season with the 31st pick in the draft.

Brown rejected a five-year, $30 million offer from the Wizards in November.

Grunfeld said he would address Brown’s future with the franchise at a later time.

“He’s still a part of our organization,” Grunfeld said. “We’ll deal with that in the offseason, and he’s going to be a restricted free agent during the summer. We’ll deal with that at the appropriate time.”

Brown’s run-in with Jordan is not his first with a coach. Michael Jordan had to step in between both Brown and then-coach Doug Collins after the two had an expletive-laced flare-up following a 109-83 loss to Phoenix in March 2003.

He has had trouble off the court, as well. Brown was cited for driving 120 mph in a construction zone in April 2002. He later was charged with a misdemeanor DUI in his hometown of Brunswick, Ga.

For now, Grunfeld and his team are looking to the task immediately ahead.

“We’re going to focus on the job at hand, which is to move ahead in the playoffs,” he said. “The playoffs are such an exciting time of year, and this city is excited. The city is alive.

“Our players feel great about the situation, and I think we’re all united. We’re going to look forward and give a great effort.”

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