A day before the Washington Wizards open training camp, Kwame Brown said a broken toe likely will force him to sit out the first two weeks of the regular season, the latest setback to the development of the club's former first-round draft choice.
Brown said team doctors have told him he can begin practice no sooner than mid-November. The 7-foot, 258-pound Brown underwent surgery on his right pinkie toe this summer after he broke it during a pickup basketball game.
Brown, 22, who averaged 10.9 points and 7.4 rebounds last season, said yesterday he would miss training camp, which begins today at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, all eight exhibition games and at the very least the season opener against the Memphis Grizzlies on Nov. 3.
"It'll be around six weeks to two months before I can play full speed," Brown said. "I'm definitely not going to play the first game. [Doctors] told me the end of November."
Brown's outlook may be overly pessimistic, according to Ernie Grunfeld, the Wizards' president of basketball operations. He wants to reassess Brown's condition after doctors reexamine him within the next 10 days before deciding when he might return to the court.
"He just got his cast removed and he will be reevaluated," Grunfeld said. "Doctors will tell us the next step."
Brown is in the final year of his contract and whether he gets a rich new deal will depend on his performance this season.
The injury "is very disappointing," said Brown, who led the Wizards in rebounding last season. "Every year I've improved [my statistics] as a player. I was coming in real positive and I thought it was going to be a real breakout year, a solid year, being consistent every game. That's not to say that I'm not going to do it, but it's going to take longer."
Brown spoke during the club's annual news conference to introduce players to the media. Earlier in the afternoon, owner Abe Pollin said he expects the Wizards to earn their first playoff berth since 1996-97 after the acquisition of Antawn Jamison, one of the NBA's top scorers, and veterans Anthony Peeler and Samaki Walker.
"If we're relatively healthy, we should be in the playoffs this year," said Pollin, in his 40th year as owner of an NBA franchise.
Jamison, who was acquired from Dallas in a trade involving Jerry Stackhouse, said the team no longer has a valid excuse for not making the playoffs.
"I get tired of this 'we're still young' and this and that," Jamison said. "I mean, this is a man's sport. All that babying is pretty much going out the window."
Injuries forced two of the Wizards' top three scorers, Gilbert Arenas and Stackhouse, out of the lineup for much of last season and the club finished near the bottom of the conference with a 25-57 record.
Brown is the second Wizards player sitting out camp because of injury. Backup point guard Steve Blake, who led Maryland to the 2002 NCAA championship, will sit out the first month of the season as he recovers from surgery to remove a chipped bone in his right ankle.
While both players were expected to make key contributions this season, Brown is under more pressure to have a big season than almost anyone else on the team.
Former Wizards general manager Michael Jordan chose Brown from Glynn Academy High School in the 2001 NBA draft, making him the first high school senior taken with the draft's No.1 pick. But Brown was slow to develop and has yet to have the success of other former prep-to-pros players such as Kevin Garnett, Tracy McGrady and Kobe Bryant.
Those three are among the top five scorers in the league. Brown is only the fourth-leading scorer on his team. He is often used as an example of high school players who have failed to make a successful jump to the NBA.