Kwame Brown held his right fist up high and smiled as he walked down a hallway just outside the Washington Wizards' practice court yesterday. Only moments earlier, the 7-foot fourth-year forward gave himself and the Wizards reason for excitement when he completed his first full practice this season after having surgery on his right foot in August.
"You can see the strength. You can see the power. His technique was good in the post offensively. He's strong on defense and that's a good thing to see," Wizards Coach Eddie Jordan said of Brown, who is still expected to be out until December. "He probably went a couple of reps more than he should've, but he wanted to do it. The trainers were there watching him and when a player pushes himself like that, it's a good thing."
Brown, who will be a restricted free agent next summer, has been on a strange odyssey since he broke his foot in a pickup game during the offseason. The top overall draft pick in 2001 was expected to return in the middle of the November but was slowed by a sprained left ankle suffered while participating in a non-contact drill during a morning shootaround in Charlotte two weeks ago.
"It was really encouraging," said Brown, coming off a season in which he averaged 10.9 points and 7.4 rebounds. "I don't want to do too much. I'm just going to keep doing it little by little; a little more each practice. Some days I'll be able to stay after practice. And do some more running. Today, I was, whew, tired."
The Wizards are expected to take reserve point guard Steve Blake (right ankle surgery) off the injured list before they face the Nets in New Jersey tomorrow, which bolsters an already full back court. But the Wizards sorely miss Brown's bulk and rebounding, especially on a defense that ranks last in the league at 104.5 points per game.
"He adds size and power and strength for us," Jordan said. "He didn't really have all of his lift, but he was very physical and we'll see how he recovers. We're getting more people out there and we can do more things in practice. It's a good sign because those are two guys we're counting on."
Brown said neither his right foot nor left ankle are at full strength but they didn't give him any problems as he banged with his teammates, broke a serious sweat and dunked for the first time in more than three months.
"They feel pretty good. They held up throughout the whole practice," Brown said of his feet. "I was able to go full contact. [Jordan] took me out a couple of times but I was able to finish. I was able to move. I just got to work on getting light, getting quick again."
Brown's foot ailments have limited him to working mostly in the weight room. "He looks real strong," forward Jarvis Hayes said. But at 270 pounds, Brown is 12 pounds heavier than last season and he isn't used to carrying that much weight -- which was evident when he rose to catch two lobs for dunks. Asked if he felt as explosive, Brown said, "I wouldn't say explosive, but I was able to jump. I'm just trying to get my legs back. On a couple of those jumps, I was like, ugh."
As Brown spoke, point guard Gilbert Arenas overheard him and interrupted. "You can't jump like you used to," Arenas said, laughing. "Your head is not getting close to the rim this year. Not even close. You think it is, but you ain't dunked in so long, everything looks good to you."
"My head is not getting close," Brown shot back with a laugh, "but as long as it's going in."
Said center Brendan Haywood: "He's trying to get back in the flow. He looked pretty good. In a month, you should be seeing the old Kwame Brown again."