For most of his first 2 1/2 seasons, Kwame Brown has been trying to avoid being labeled a bust after being selected No. 1 overall in the 2001 NBA Draft.
Brown has perhaps never been better than he was Saturday, when he scored a career-high 25 points and had nine rebounds in the Wizards’ 107-96 victory over the Eastern Conference-leading Indiana Pacers.
“It’s coming together,” said Brown, who entered the NBA straight out of high school. “I’m a lot more comfortable. Not as jittery, taking my shots when I have it.”
The 6-foot-11 forward went 8-for-12 from the field, 9-for-10 from the free-throw line, had three blocks and no turnovers. Brown is averaging 13 points and 7.8 rebounds in his last 11 games, well above his averages of 6.2 points and 4.6 rebounds from his first two seasons.
“Let’s see some consistency,” Washington coach Eddie Jordan said. “We’re not going to gloat. We love what happened tonight. We’re not going to say he’s arrived, because it’s all about consistency.”
Washington may be without Jared Jeffries as they play the second game of its seven-game homestand. The forward sprained his right ankle in the fourth quarter Saturday and did not return. His status for this contest is uncertain.
Portland is coming off a 105-87 loss to the Golden State Warriors on Saturday. The Trail Blazers have lost six of seven, and 10 of 12, to fall the farthest below .500 the team has been since dropping 12 games below the break-even mark during the 1975-76 season.
“It’s mental—we are not a bad team,” Portland guard Derek Anderson said. “I don’t understand it. It’s a simple game.”
Portland center Dale Davis returned to the team after abruptly leaving practice Friday, unhappy at finding out he would be fined for missing a flight to Minnesota on Jan.7. Trail Blazers coach Maurice Cheeks said Davis will be fined again for leaving practice.
Ruben Patterson made his first career start, taking Davis’ place in the lineup. Davis was scoreless with one rebound in 20 minutes.
Darius Miles played with Portland on Saturday for the first time since being acquired in a trade with the Cleveland Cavaliers for guard Jeff McInnis and center Ruben Boumtje Boumtje. Miles scored 12 points in 20 minutes.
STANDINGS (through Jan. 24): Trail Blazers - 5th place (tied), 13 GB, Pacific Division. Wizards - 6th place, 8 1/2 GB, Atlantic Division.
PROBABLE STARTERS: Trail Blazers - F Patterson, F Zach Randolph, C Rasheed Wallace, G Derek Anderson, G Damon Stoudamire. Wizards - F Jarvis Hayes, F Brown, C Etan Thomas, G Larry Hughes, G Brevin Knight.
TEAM LEADERS: Trail Blazers - Randolph, 21.5 ppg and 11.1 rpg; Stoudamire, 5.5 apg. Wizards - Hughes, 19 ppg; Thomas, 6.9 rpg; Arenas, 4.8 apg.
SEASON SERIES: Wizards, 1-0.
LAST MEETING: Nov. 25; Wizards, 81-80. At Portland, Ore., Larry Hughes made a driving layup for the Wizards with 10.4 seconds left.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Trail Blazers - 3-16 on the road; Wizards - 9-10 at home.