Kwame Brown Traded to the Lakers

The End to a Disappointing Era

Kwame Brown
The Wizards deal former No. 1 pick Kwame Brown to Los Angeles in exchange for swingman Caron Butler and veteran point guard Chucky Atkins. (John McDonnell - The Washington Post)

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By Michael Lee
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, July 15, 2005

Kwame Brown no longer has to deal with the weight of lofty expectations. The team that drafted him No. 1 overall in 2001 no longer has to suffer through his inability to meet them. The Washington Wizards agreed in principle yesterday to a sign-and-trade deal that would send Brown to the Los Angeles Lakers in exchange for swingman Caron Butler and point guard Chucky Atkins, Brown's Los Angeles-based agent Arn Tellem said.

Tellem met with Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak this week and the two sides agreed to a three-year deal worth $25 million. Brown, who was a restricted free agent, will earn $16 million the first two years, and the Lakers will hold a team option for the third year that would pay him about $9 million.

In his first year with the Lakers, the 7-foot, 270-pound Brown will make slightly more than the $6.9 million qualifying offer the Wizards extended him. "It's our intention to sign with the Wizards and be traded to the Lakers," Tellem said by phone yesterday. "He's excited about the possibility of getting a fresh start and going to a great team with a great history."

In a telephone interview last night, Brown refused to criticize the Wizards and shed little light on his suspension from the team during the playoffs, but vowed to prove his critics in Washington wrong.

"I'm not concerned with how I will be remembered in Washington," Brown said. "I'm concerned with how I'm remembered from this point on. It's about starting over and building a new legacy. This is a resurrection."

Brown did acknowledge making some mistakes during his time in Washington.

"I did some unprofessional things. It's in the past and I'm ready to move on. I can't have any regrets. If you live your life with regrets, you'll never move on. All the stuff that happened to me is ultimately going to make the person and the player that I'm going to become."

Wizards President of Basketball Operations Ernie Grunfeld declined to comment on the deal. Free agent deals cannot be finalized until at least July 22, when the new collective bargaining agreement is expected to be ratified.

The Wizards and Brown both agreed that it was time to part ways following Brown's rocky four-year stint in Washington, which began with extraordinary -- perhaps unfair -- expectations and ended with him buckling under the pressure, and frustration leading to his postseason suspension. Tellem said he thinks a fresh start "will be good for him."

Brown, 23, became the first high school player drafted with the top overall pick, in 2001, but he has struggled to turn his potential into production for the Wizards and became a walking advertisement for the new age minimum in the latest collective bargaining agreement. Brown had public disputes with former teammate Michael Jordan and former coach Doug Collins in his first two seasons and, although he displayed some promise in his third season, he was never able to live up to his billing.

Brown, however, said it's too early to call him a bust. "Someone has a full career ahead of them and you're already calling him a bust?" Brown asked angrily. "Most of the people who write that never picked up a basketball in their life. I still have a full career ahead of me. If I turn it around in L.A., that's all I care about now. Turning it around and playing up to my potential. And, those same writers who wrote that will have to recant those statements."

Wizards fans' frustrations with Brown boiled over last season, when he averaged just 7.0 points and 4.9 rebounds and was routinely booed at home games as MCI Center became a personal pressure-cooker for Brown. "I wouldn't use the word hurt," Brown said of his feelings about being jeered at home. "It was upsetting and frustrating because you always want your fans on your side. I don't think it hurt. With all the stuff I've been through, I'm not going to be hurt over a simple boo."


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