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The Inside Track | J.A. Adande

Lakers Don't Expect Much, and Brown Comes Through

December 27, 2005|J.A. Adande

WASHINGTON — It will be good for Kwame Brown to get back to Los Angeles, where the fans feel frustrated with him, a much better option than outright hatred.

For the Lakers, Brown represents a low-risk gamble. For the Wizards he carried one of the worst labels in sports: a bust.

He arrived in Washington in 2001 as the first high school player ever selected with the No. 1 overall pick in the draft. His Wizard career ended with the ignominy of being kicked off the team in the 2005 playoffs.

NBA general managers are suckers for physiques. Brown's body looks like a sculpture. Unfortunately, his hands must be made of marble.

On one play Monday night a lob pass bounced off his hands, hit him in the head and went out of bounds.

Of course that brought catcalls from the stands of MCI Center. They booed him from the first time he came off the bench, nine minutes into the first quarter.

"Biggest bust ever, Kwame," one person yelled.

Brown was unimpressed by the crowd's vocal efforts.

"That was weak," he said. "It was worse than that when I was here."

That's because in his four seasons here Brown averaged 7.7 points and 5.5 rebounds and always seemed to blame others when things went wrong.

The best thing about coming to the Lakers was the diminished demands.

He didn't have to replace Shaquille O'Neal, a task that landed on Chris Mihm's shoulders last year.

"We didn't have expectations," Jackson said. "We said this is going to be something that is going to be a long-term growth for Kwame."

The problem is he's still closer to the player he was with the Wizards than the player the Lakers hope he can be.

He's 6 feet 11 and weighs 248 pounds, yet the last thing he can be counted on to do is score inside. It's so bad that even point-blank shots are a problem for him.

It's so obvious that when Jackson was asked what he wants to see from Brown he answered: "Making layups."


"Those are really important things for us," Jackson said. "Just little things. Kwame gets a little bit rushed on the offensive end.

"But other than that he's doing a great job defensively."

Jackson has tried to accentuate the positive with Brown lately.

Anticipating the hostile reception from the Wizard fans, Jackson gave him a little pep talk after Monday's shoot-around.

"I told him he should know we're really pleased with his play," Jackson said. "He's doing a great job for us. He holds the defensive middle for us, and that's more than anybody can ask as a basketball team. That's the most valuable defensive spot you have on the floor."

His defense never looked better than on Sunday, when O'Neal could not power his way past him and shot below 50%.

"Right now he's given us a little bit of hope for holding that middle together," Jackson said. "Rebounding. Being strong up the middle of the court."

Brown's first points were like a summary of the bad and the good. He missed a point-blank layup. Then he got the rebound and scored.

The best thing Brown does is get the ball when it's around him. He averages six rebounds in 25 1/2 minutes per game. Of course the ultimate goal, the advanced calculus of rebounding, would be to anticipate the bounce based on the shot's trajectory and position himself accordingly. But for now, the basic math will do.

I always believed O'Neal's horrible free-throw shooting was simply a mental block, a flaw compounded by the solitary, public nature of the problem. I'd seen him make free throw after free throw in practice, then look completely uncomfortable at the line in the game. It became a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Brown's entire game has that same feel. Whenever he gets the ball he looks afraid to make a mistake instead of ready to do something positive.

There shouldn't be any thought process at all, really. It should be a reaction to the situation, something that's been drilled through 1 million repetitions, a different pet move for every option. But he has yet to develop a go-to play or a signature move. So every time with the ball is a new adventure.

As one heckler said Monday, "Your instincts are ineffective." Now that's a well-thought, quality heckle. Breaking it down Hubie Brown-style.

So what do you get when you have physique plus talent minus instincts? That equation won't add up to superstar. With the Wizards, there were questions about Brown's work ethic, but the Lakers haven't found that to be a problem.

The good news for Brown? He can't be a disappointment if he wasn't supposed to be any better.

They hoped he could start, but for now his role has been to serve as Mihm's backup. That's what he did Monday in another unspectacular night for Brown, with five points and seven rebounds in the Lakers' 94-91 loss.

He said it was unemotional, since the Lakers had already played the Wizards once in the preseason and again this month.

"If it had been the first time, it might have been different," Brown said.

Just more of the same. Get used to it, and don't expect anything else.


J.A. Adande can be reached at To read previous columns by Adande, go to

T.J. Simers has the day off.

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