Bobcats Top To Bottom: Kwame Brown


Kwame Brown.  It is a name that used to be synonymous with “bust” or “Michael Jordan’s first ever failure in basketball.”  If you had something to say about Michael Jordan and his post-Bulls career, his time in Washington, even his future in Charlotte, the linch pin in any anti-Jordan argument was Kwame Brown.  He was the first overall pick back in 2001.  MJ selected him as the first ever #1 overall straight out of high school, he didn’t work out, MJ re-retired after wearing him out in his rookie year, then he got fired in Washington.  Well, MJ bought his way in here in Charlotte and then bought Robert Johnson out, then he brought in his biggest mistake as an executive: Kwame Kwams himself.

The two are going to be linked for life.  Depending on how things work out over the next few years, the perception might be completely different.  I can’t believe, looking back, how negative I was when he was signed.  I wrote at at the time “Kwame Brown, welcome.  No, you know what?  YOU ARE NOT WELCOME!  Go back to Georgia, throw some cake at somebody, do whatever it is you were doing!  We don’t need another reclamation project.  Don’t let MJ fool you, I speak for the greater good.”

I was falling into the same sensability as most basketball fans.  It was easy to hate on this kid.  He’s no lived up to the #1 pick.  You can’t deny that.  I read an article by Scoop Jackson that seemed to sum up his first 4 years in Washington.  He started:  “When he looks at Tyson Chandler, you have to wonder what he sees?  What he thinks? Wonder what travels through his mind? The image is mirror, but he has to see the the exact opposite. Same age, same profession, same young man – different life.”  Scoop gets a little poetic, pretentious even in that article.  Ironic that he followed Chandler in Charlotte as a starting center, but somewhat meaningless this far into the future, if you’re looking at it from 2004.

Kwame was dismissed from Washington and then traded to Los Angeles.  Washington did not go well for Kwame, to say the least.  I believe they truly hated him (see below from DCProSportsReport).  The number one pick wasn’t the entire reason, the way that his star teammates dumped on him and coaches didn’t defend him were much larger in the public’s perception, the argument that he wasn’t worthy of the number one pick was just the easy, quantifiable reasoning.

Los Angeles went a bit better.  He stepped in when Chris Mihm was injured, didn’t disappoint and carried the center position through the end of the regular season and on to the playoffs.  He went out with injuries the next year, Andrew Bynum stepped in and his time in Los Angeles was over.  He’s also gotten in some trouble off the court, some sort of cake throwing incident, West Coast was not good to Kwame.

Traded again, this time to Memphis in the Pau Gasol deal, Kwame should be considered an MVP in LA for that alone.  Memphis didn’t want him once that season ended.  He ended up in Detroit, signing a 2 year $8 million deal.  He didn’t impress them enough to elicit an offer once that was over.

So, without a job, he’s already burned bridges with 4 teams and every fanbase basically dismissing him as any type of viable option to use at the center position.  I have no idea how it went down, but Kwame agreed to a one year, vet minimum deal with the Charlotte Bobcats and his old pal, Michael Jordan.  He said at points this year that the percieved strife between himself and MJ was overblown.  They always got along and coming to Charlotte to play for MJ was proof that there was no reason they couldnt get along and be successful together.

Sam Amick wrote about Kwame and Jordan back in January.  After Larry Brown had been fired, Paul Silas lifted Kwame Brown as he did with many players that Larry Brown had little time for.  Although LaSalle Thompson isn’t a horrible assistant, I’ve got nothing bad to say about him, but for a specific type of player, you need an assistant to help.  Bigs and point guards always need a coach that will focus with them and hone the skills that they need.  Charles Oakley became that guy for Kwame Brown.  I don’t think enough credit is given to assistants in the NBA.  We all got excited when it was announced that Oakley would be joining the staff when Silas took over, but he immediately got involved with Kwame Brown.

It’s incredible to me how far down this guy has been beaten.  I don’t know if a number one overall pick has gone this far into a career and then found himself on the “vet minimum” payroll.  Greg Oden might get there.  Just looked it up, Michael Olowokandi is definitely retired and he was drafted number one overall three years before Kwame.  Then again he wasn’t drafted by Michael Jordan.

From the depths to moderately accepted as a legit player.  Glad it happened because if it had been just another horrible free agent signing (see: Stephen Graham, Jeff McInnis, Flip Murray) being such a big name and all the history, it might have broken the back of this front office.

Now the question is, with no big name centers in the draft (outside of Kanter) and the free agent market questionable at best, what does a guy like Kwame get on the open market?  He is legitimately unattached, no quallifying offer, no player option, team option.  While I think that the fact Charlotte was where he landed and he closed out the year as a starter will carry some clout, I think there will be other suitors.

Nic’s Take On Kwame Brown

Unbelievably … Kwame Brown will be our most coveted free agent.  That’s not saying a whole lot, but it’s something we have to deal with.  Kwame has spent much of his career as the guy who never lived up to his draft pick, but now that expectations and his contract have been dropped to almost nothing… he seems like a steal.  He wasn’t awe inspiring this season but he was hands down the Bobcats best center and really seemed to be getting better every game.   What do you do with a guy like that?  Getting better? Sure, but he’s still has hands of the hardest stone and a laid back mentality, two things that will forever separate him from NBA greats.  So is Kwame Brown more important to the center-less Bobcats or a championship caliber team in need of a quality back-up?  It is going to be a tough question to answer and I dont envy Rod Higgins at all.  I like Kwam’s and I want him on this team, preferably as an excellent back-up to a better center, but what happens if the Celtics or Heat come in with an offer around 5 per?  Thats a tough sell to a rebuilding franchise short on cash.   Luckily, we’ve got some space to work with and I can’t see championship caliber teams spending extravagantly on a back-up center unless Mark Cuban gets bored this offseason.   There’s also the chance that Kwame has some sort of loyalty to Jordan for trusting and paying him twice, and gives the Bobcats the good old fashioned home town discount.  Either way, the team has to have a center, and I wouldn’t mind it being Brown… i just hope that need doesn’t hamstring us from future free agent centers.

Assessment of Kwame Brown from Thomas Threlkeld of
(Also a member of the Fansided Network, special thanks and be sure to check them out, especially their mock draft database)

It’s fair to say that Wizards fans are still fairly down on Kwame Brown. Part of it is that he was a number one overall pick who failed, but that’s not really his fault. He’s not a very good player and it remains the fault of then-GM Michael Jordan for selecting him. What made it worse is that Brown was known as a quitter during his time in Washington. He basically quit on the team during the playoffs and had to be suspended. He never worked hard in practice and never appeared to be working hard in games either and that also angered fans. Finally, after he was traded to the Los Angeles Lakers [for Caron Butler], Brown boasted in a Washington Post article about how much happier he was in Los Angeles — not so much because he was on a better team, but because his house was better than the one he had in the DC area. He came to personify many of the negative stereotypes many people believe about modern professional athletes.

Brown’s 2009-10 season was about as bad as it could have been [he finished last in true shooting percentage among all NBA centers] so it wasn’t surprising that he improved in 2010-11. Still, his play improved considerably and he went from being an historically awful offensive player to a mediocre one. He’s decent defensively [I like the way he defends the pick and roll] and he’s developed into a perfectly respectable rebounder, which is the least one should expect for a man his size.

The key to Kwame Brown is to keep him motivated and the best way to do that is with money. He’s a guy who could never play in the NBA if it wasn’t for his size because he doesn’t really like the game that much or work hard at it. He’s got salad tongs for hands and has never developed any real post moves. If you understand he’s a very limited offensive player and any points you get from him are gravy, you can live with him at center. But he’s not the guy you want to give a long term contract. Kwame needs to be on a short leash at all times. He needs to know that those checks could stop coming the minute he starts going through the motions. Ideally, he’s a backup getting no more than 10-12 minutes a game, but the Bobcats needed him to do more than that last year. Could he come back with another decent season? It’s certainly possible, but nobody should be surprised if he falls back into his bad habits.

As for Kwame Brown having an “unbelievable” season, I suspect that depends on your definition of “unbelievable.” It’s not a good idea to rely on him or get your hopes up too much. I’m sure Silas is trying to encourage Brown with a public show of confidence, but fans shouldn’t read too much into that. I don’t have a particularly high opinion of Brown, obviously, but I bear him no ill will and hope he’s able to salvage something from his career.

Offer Sheet:
Judging by last year, getting the production that the ‘Cats got for the Vet Minimum (which the league actually pays most of) Kwame was a steal.  I wouldn’t expect much more out of ol’ “Tiny Hands” Brown.  He’s not getting a damn long term contract, we all know that.  I agree 100% with Thomas, he’s got to be on a leash and not sitting back collecting game checks.  I’d match any offer he gets on the open market up to about $3.5 a year, for no more than 2 years.  If that’s actually do-able, or if someone will offer him more, I don’t know.

Kwame was a great surprise, lots of attention from lots of good places, he didn’t disappoint or even just get by.  There was a run there that he was actually looking like a real starting center.  Now, rewarding him with a contract, it has to be measured and adjusted based on who he is.  I’m really looking forward to seeing how it turns out, the contract as well as the player going forward.