Wizards top pick makes pro debut

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, July 18, 2001

The Associated Press

BOSTON – The fans filled the gym in the hopes of catching the start of Michael Jordan’s comeback.

Wednesday, July 18, 2001

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BOSTON – The fans filled the gym in the hopes of catching the start of Michael Jordan’s comeback.

Instead, they saw the first demonstration of Jordan’s handiwork as a general manager.

Kwame Brown, Jordan’s first draft pick and the first high schooler ever taken first overall, led the Wizards with 15 points and added six rebounds in his professional debut Tuesday night at the UMass-Boston summer league.

Joe Johnson, Boston’s No. 1 pick, and free agent Khalid El-Amin each had 16 points for the Celtics as Boston beat the Wizards 73-57.

Brown was 6-for-15 from the floor and made all three of his free throws, had a blocked shot and a steal and committed three turnovers while playing 32 minutes in the 40-minute game.

The 19-year-old center from Glynn Academy also showed flashes of the talent that led Jordan to bank the Wizards’ future on him.

He won the opening tip, but then let Mark Blount get by him in the lane before Blount missed a layup. With 4:30 left in the first quarter, Brown swished a jumper from the top of the key for his first professional basket.

Brown played all the first quarter except for the last 2.1 seconds. With 1:31 left in the second, he dropped a dribble between his legs at the foul line and got past his man for a layup and a three-point play.

”He’s got a lot of game. He handled the ball really well for a guy who’s 6-foot-11,” said Celtics rookie Joseph Forte. ”Plus, he’s so young and he didn’t look goofy. Usually, when you’re young, you look a little awkward.”

The summer league of rookies and young free agents at the 3,500-seat Clark Athletic Center at UMass-Boston won’t confuse anyone with the NBA. Players wore practice uniforms, referees had no numbers on their jerseys and assistants handled the coaching duties; Celtics forward Jerome Moiso was chewing gum.

The sold-out session had plenty of excitement as fans came to perhaps catch a glimpse of Jordan as he works into shape for a possible comeback. Despite newspaper and broadcast reports that Jordan might begin his return here, he did not attend.

But the crowd got to see Brown’s debut. And if he fulfills the potential assigned to him, that will make it a memorable night, indeed.

”I’m glad the first one’s over with,” he said. ”There are a lot of things that I don’t know right now. I’m trying to learn as much as I can.”

Although Brown seemed confident afterward, he admitted he was a little nervous before the game. His mother, who watched from behind the Wizards’ bench, said she could tell he had some jitters.

”He probably is a little nervous,” Joyce Brown said, adding that she had no fear her son would fail in the NBA. ”I’m not nervous. Just excited.”

To calm his nerves, Brown took a little advice from Jordan.

”He told me to have fun. He said not to worry about the pressure,” Brown said.

Did you?

”Oh yeah,” he said, ”I had a great time.”