When Gilbert Arenas’ blog dropped the last week, I was all set to write a post on the past tumultuous relationship between him and Kwame Brown. However, I became distracted by Gilbert’s absurd lack of social responsibility. [Side Bar: I do realize that Gilbert's blog (or at least the one that some dude transcribes for him) spawning other bloggers to write blog posts (in some cases multiple) about his blog post could be considered absurd as well....and I'm comfortable with that possibility.]
What Arenas said about Brown and his migration to Motown seemed to be words of encouragement for the 26-year old, seven-year NBA vet.
I like that deal for Detroit and for Kwame. He’s in a quieter city now, he’s 26-years old, he’s on a veteran team, he’s growing up. In the past in D.C. and L.A. it was a case of him being a big kid in a big city, now he can settle his career down. You know that Sheed and McDyess and those other bigs will help him develop and this should be the best time of his career because in Detroit, the bigs get touches in the offense.
Don’t think that the Kwame Brown that was in Memphis is the real Kwame Brown. When you get traded, so much emotion goes into it and leaving a No. 1 team to come into a team with a bad record halfway through the season is a tough adjustment.
In the past he had the spot light on him because he was a No. 1 pick and he was in these big markets, but now he can just go out and play hard and blend in. This is going to be his year.
True, Kwame is on a veteran team, which should help. But Gilbert acts like he’s in some po-dunk town where he’ll be able to “blend in” and not get noticed
if when he sucks. Sure, La-La Land is the #2 U.S. media market, and DC is #9….but Detroit is right there at #11. Plus, the Pistons are on national TV 14 times next year (the Wizards make 11 appearances as Bullets Forever has pointed out, and if you’re counting, Memphis has one, a January 19th match-up versus Detroit).
It’s not like the Pistons have high hopes to maybe contend for the playoffs next season. No, they are a team with championship expectations, and the fans in Motor City are becoming impatient. I’m not so sure there will be high margin of error for Kwame, at least in the minds of Pistons faithful.
Gilbert & Kwame: A History of Tiffs
Let me take you back to late-February 2004, when the Wizards were fresh off a beating from the Milwaukee Bucks, 113-85, dropping their record to 16-38. As a team, the Wiz shot 38.4% and committed 19 turnovers to 17 assists. Agent Zero scored 21 points on 7-21 from the field with six assists, six turnovers, six rebounds, and four assists. Captain Cake scored six points and pulled down two boards in 23 minutes of play. The kicker was that Jerry Stackhouse, in a moment of frustration during the game, threw the ball into the stands, and was later fined $5,000.
After the game, Kwame had this to say [quoting from "Wizards Hope To Right Selves After Exchange; Brown, Arenas Addressed; Jordan Says Trust Paramount," Washington Post (Feb. 24, 2004) by Steve Wyche]:
“To me, it seems like guys are going out just to get numbers. . . . If you look at the little bit of wins we do have, we have 20-plus assists. In games where we’re getting killed, we have one guy with okay numbers, but he’s shooting. We don’t pass the ball, we don’t share, we don’t play like a team. We got guys whining and complaining about offense and that’s not basketball. It makes me sick.”
Sick, huh? Just imagine what wasting a #1 overall pick does to a stomach. Arenas countered with these words:
“Everybody’s getting the same amount of touches. If you ain’t converting, you ain’t converting. Last time I checked, I passed [Brown] the ball six, seven times. He passed it to somebody else, right under the basket. So, I don’t know where he’s coming from with that. I guess he didn’t have 20 tonight.”
Some speculated that the incident would be a rallying point for the team. It wasn’t…..sorta. The Wizards go on to win four out of the next five games, but only totaled nine wins for the rest of the season to go along with 19 more losses, ultimately dropping the 16-38 record to 25-57.
But Kwame kinda had a point. In Wizards wins that year, they averaged 21.6 assists (to 17.5 in losses), attempted 1.2 less threes, and got to the free-throw line 2.1 more times per game. To further illustrate, Arenas, who only appeared in 55 games in 03-04, averaged 6.8 assists in wins to 4.2 in losses. Also, Gilbert attempted 15.9 FGs per win, 16.9 per loss, while shooting 43.5% from the field in wins and 37.3% in losses.
Kwame implored team leaders to step up…..what a guy:
“It can’t come from me. People don’t respect me. I’m a third-year guy. It’s got to come from a coach. We’ve got guys in here seven-, six-year vets. They’ve got to step up to the plate.”
What a crock. People did not respect Kwame because he didn’t hustle and didn’t take pride in his work. You don’t need to be a veteran to inspire others. Look no further that the current Washington Nationals…..young call-ups such as Emilio Bonifacio and Alberto Gonzalez have lit a fire under team veterans with hustle (before getting swept recently by the Brewers, the 44-71 Nats had won 6 out of their last 7 — I’ll take anything).
In his third year in the league, Kwame was wondering why he didn’t command respect? He never did anything to earn respect.
In the following days, the Wiz did some damage control. Eddie Jordan threw out phrases such as “boys will be boys,” Kwame said he wasn’t specifically talking to Gil, and the incident was swept under the rug. Until……
May 2005 – “The” NBA Playoffs
‘Twas the night before one of the most important games in franchise history, playoff game 5 versus the Chicago Bulls, and not a creature was stirring…….except Kwame Brown packing his bags because he’d just been suspended for the rest of the season.
The 04-05 season had been tumultuous for Kwame. In a December loss to the Denver Nuggets, Eddie Jordan called a timeout midway through the 2nd quarter. A couple easy Nuggets baskets pushed their lead to 45-40 and Jordan, a “players coach,” took the time to berate his players for their piss-poor defensive effort, focusing a majority of the attention on Kwame. Brown chose to flight, rather than fight, boycotted the huddle, sat on the bench, and ignored his coach. He was suspended for the next game versus the Knicks.
In a late March game against the Los Angeles Clippers in LA, Kwame decided it would be beneficial to prod his teammate, Brendan Haywood, in the midst of a playoff run. [It's worth noting that in those times, Haywood was considered somewhat of a problem child himself.] Late in the 3rd quarter, Brown had some choice words for Haywood as they both sat the bench. This prompted Brendan to shout bac
k, get up out of his seat, and make a move towards Kwame. Laron Profit stepped in to restrain Haywood. When Kwame continued to shout, an injured Antawn Jamison was forced to intervene from his seat behind the bench. The Wizards would go on to lose 98-94, unable to overcome a 17-point 4th quarter deficit.
After a loss to the New Jersey Nets in the second-to-last game of the season, which meant that the Wiz would not have home-court advantage in the playoffs, Brown insinuated that he would rather play on the road (he’d justifiably received the boo-bird treatment from the home fans many times during the season), and that the crowd made Eddie Jordan’s playing time decisions for him. (No, asshole, playing like Mr. Softee will do that to you).
Oh yea, back to the playoffs…..pouting that he wasn’t receiving enough playing time, (who cares about the team, right?), Kwame came down with a stomach virus and was excused from practice the morning after game 3, a Wizards 117-99 win which cut the Bulls series lead to 2-1. The tummy ache was still in full effect the next day; Kwame missed both the morning shoot-around and game 4. The Wizards, thus, suspended Kwame. [I can't believe that he had the balls to show up for a private workout with Gilbert Arenas and Antawn Jamison the following Thursday.]
There was speculation over whether he was really sick, or kinda sick, or protesting like a child…..amid rumors that he was seen at a Chinese restaurant after missing practice on Sunday. Gilbert Arenas, taking the higher road, even stopped by Brown’s house to check on him the afternoon before game 4……and essentially covered for Kwame.
In any case, bailing out on your team for selfish reasons was the final straw for a Wizards organization that had given Brown more than enough chances. Hell, it was in the interest of the organization to keep with the kid, but he spurned opportunities to be a man time and time again.
Now, Kwame is in Detroit and under the wing of new Pistons coach, Michael Curry (who played five games with the Bullets in 95-96, the famed Robert Pack season). Brown claims that Curry is a big reason as to why he chose Detroit…..seems that even Kwame buys into his “baby” label and essentially admits to needing to be coddled in a positive environment (of course, if I were a coach, my philosophy would be positive reinforcement, so I will admit that the Michael Jordan/Doug Collins show might have been the slightest bit detrimental to the development of high-schooler Kwame).
“I’ve heard it all. I’ve been through it all. I’m only 26, but I’ve been through things the average man couldn’t imagine.”
I can’t help but chuckle at this recent quote from Kwame with a high degree of snark. No Kwame, Lopez Lomong has been through things that the average man can’t imagine. Or, if Kwame meant that the average man can’t imagine what it’s like to squander talent, chances at millions of dollars, and glory in the NBA with a lackadaisical, immature disposition, then I see his point.
If I sound like I’m still angry about Kwame Brown, then I must be…..and writing this account certainly does not help my attitude. I guess what gets me the most is that I was staunch in my support for Kwame for way to long, past the point where my friends were calling him a chump while wondering about the reasons for my continued hope.
So while Gilbert has taken the high road with his optimistic words, and even Antawn Jamison proved that he’s worth the moniker “Gentleman” with his comments about Kwame back in ’05 after the playoff suspension, “I love Kwame to death, like a little brother, and hopefully, he’ll get things situated. There’s nothing negative I can say about the guy,” I cannot and will not.
Will Kwame come into his own in Detroit? I have my doubts, but could care less in any case. In the least, Kwame has set himself up to easily exceed the bar set by another Kwame of Detroit. I do know one thing, I’ll be at the Verizon Center with a cage of boo-birds when the Pistons come to DC on December 9th.
- “Kwame suspended; Incident with coach costs Wizard one game,” Washington Times (Dec. 10, 2004) by John N. Mitchell.
- “K. Brown, Haywood Squabble; Players Trade Harsh Words On Bench as Wizards Lose,” Washington Post (Mar. 27, 2005) by Michael Lee.