By Michael Lee
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, December 27, 2005
The city's least favorite son returned to MCI Center last night, and Kwame Brown expected more of Washington.
Brown, the former No. 1 pick for the Washington Wizards who was practically booed out of town after his fourth less-than-inspiring season, said he had expected "the Juwan Howard treatment" -- as in the deafening sound of boos once reserved for Howard, who was unable to live up to lofty expectations after signing a $100 million contract and, ironically, also wore the No. 5 for Washington.
Instead, Brown said the reception paled in comparison to what he had seen before. "That was weak!" Brown said after he was lustily booed for most of the 19 minutes 49 seconds he spent on the floor during the Los Angeles Lakers' 94-91 loss to the Wizards. "It was worse than that when I was here."
It was the first game Brown had played at MCI Center since Game 3 of Washington's first-round playoff series against the Chicago Bulls, when Brown played a season-low four minutes and not at all in the second half.
He later skipped a practice and a shootaround, claiming that he had a stomach virus, which led to a suspension for the remainder of the season and ended his playing days in Washington.
Two months after he was traded to Los Angeles in exchange for Caron Butler and Chucky Atkins, Brown said the reason he failed to return to action was out of fear of physically harming Gilbert Arenas, whom Brown alleged told Coach Eddie Jordan not to put him in the game.
Brown and Arenas have since cleared the air and they greeted each other with fist taps before the start of the second quarter. The fans in Washington, however, were less forgiving of the player Michael Jordan plucked from high school in 2001. They booed Brown every time he touched the ball and cheered with equal vigor whenever he committed a foul or failed to grasp a rebound.
With several months of built-up anger and frustration, fans in the building were gearing up their vocal cords for a boo fest, seemingly from the start, as they expressed their displeasure when Arenas was called for an offensive foul in the first minute of the game.
But, with 2:49 left, Brown took two steps from his seat on the Lakers' bench and the sellout crowd of 20,173 quickly directed its derision toward one man, giving the 7-footer with the cornrowed hair a standing chorus of boos.
Brown blew into his fist, skipped to the foul line and patted Etan Thomas, his best friend on the Wizards, and bounced alongside him as Jared Jeffries got ready to attempt his free throw. One fan in Section 106 wearing Lakers colors shouted, "I love you, Kwame!" No way Brown could hear it through the horde of boos or the mocking chants of "Kwa-ME! Kwa-ME!"
"It wasn't a big deal to me," said Brown, who finished with five points and seven rebounds. "I think I was calm all night. Nobody rattled me. When someone boos you while you're here, what's that going to do? I didn't need to block it out. I was already prepared."
Brown hit back-to-back buckets in the second quarter, giving the Lakers a 14-point lead, but he had no impact on the remainder of the game. "I'm mad that we lost," Brown said. "You always want to beat the team that traded you. That was a disappointing loss."
Brown actually did receive a few cheers in the second quarter, when Lakers reserve Sasha Vujacic tossed an alley-oop lob toward Brown. In a scene Washington fans had grown to expect, Brown bobbled the ball, which bounced off of his head and rolled out of bounds.
"They should be cheering that I'm gone," Brown said. "I'm confused."