- The Washington Times - Friday, November 4, 2005

Kwame Brown played down to his usual self in his debut with the Lakers, which is to say he looked confused, lost and out of it.

It must have been contagious, for the venerable Zen master drew up the last shot for Brown.

The oddball plan worked to perfection of sorts, as Brown missed the shot, secured the rebound and passed the ball to Kobe Bryant, who buried the game-winning basket in overtime to lift the Lakers past the George Karl-less Nuggets.

The turnaround put a happy face on what is the grim lineup of the Lakers, constituted as Bryant and four mongrels with a multitude of limitations, issues and psychosocial failings.

The Zen master will have to dig deep into his bag of psychological tricks to lead this undistinguished bunch to the playoffs, starting with the conspiratorial Brown, who has blamed everyone but FEMA for his felonious career.

A change in venues eventually may help Brown find his place in the NBA, which more and more has the look of a journeyman-in-training.

A coach cannot teach instincts. A player either has a feel for the game or doesn’t, and Brown has no more feel for the game than one of the Zen master’s pet rocks.

Instinct is knowing where an errant shot is going to come off a rim.

Dennis Rodman, hardly the tallest or strongest forward, was unrivaled in this regard, as attested by his seven consecutive rebounding titles.

Instinct is knowing when to take a chance on defense, as Michael Jordan did late in Game 6 of the NBA Finals in 1998, when he left his defensive assignment and came up behind Karl Malone to steal the ball.

Instinct is knowing when to seek contact on a shot attempt. It is knowing when to finish a move to the basket with a dunk. And it is knowing not to force a pass to a teammate in a crowd around the basket.

Brown, alas, has none of these instincts, which, along with a counterproductive mental attitude, restricts his capacity to make full use of his physical tools. He has a 7-footer’s body. He has quickness. He has enough basketball skills to be a routine double-double producer.

But he has none of the instinctual stuff, and four years at the University of Florida would not have bequeathed that to him. Four years in college might have served his maturity process. It might have given him some semblance of a back-to-the-basket game. But four years in college would not have granted him the instincts that are so lacking in him.

You watched him in his debut with the Lakers, and he was the same old, disjointed player, a fifth-year rookie, as it were, never really part of the flow, his seven points and six rebounds negated by five fouls and three turnovers in 28 minutes.

Or to borrow from David Byrne: Same as it ever was. Same as it ever was. Same. As. It. Ever. Was.

The two regimes of the Wizards entrusted with Brown’s development in four seasons questioned his devotion to the game, suggesting because of his size, he never had been required to spend huge amounts of time in a gym.

That was true enough. It also is true that frontcourt players often develop at far slower rates than perimeter players, which was the benefit of doubt afforded Brown for the longest time.

But no more.

Brown undoubtedly will have a few games fall his way this season. That is the nature of an 82-game season.

Brown, though, has something far worse than a poor attitude going against him. He has no feel for the game, no sense of where to be on the court, no idea how to impose himself on the proceedings.

He is endeavoring to send a message to Washington, judging by his comments in preseason.

He just lacks the wherewithal, the savvy, to make it a convincing one.

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