How highly does Sixers coach Doug Collins think of former No. 1 overall pick Kwame Brown at this point in his career? Highly enough to anoint him the team's starting center months before the Sixers are to convene for training camp.
Speaking Tuesday afternoon at a news conference at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine, Collins said he expects to start Brown and slide Spencer Hawes, last season's starting center, over to power forward in a lineup that will also see Jrue Holiday, Evan Turner, and Andre Iguodala back in the starting lineup.
Brown passed his team physical Tuesday, clearing the way for his two-year, $6 million deal to become official.
He became the first player in league history to be selected directly out of high school with the top pick in the draft when the Washington Wizards - then coached by Collins - drafted a 19-year-old Brown in 2001.
Since then, he has done nothing to distinguish himself. He had his best season in his third year in the league, when he averaged 10.9 points and 7.4 rebounds in 2003-04. Some contend that he is the worst top pick in NBA history.
To which Collins and the Sixers say: So what.
"I think when people view Kwame Brown they look at a guy who was a bust as the No. 1 draft pick in the NBA," Collins said, "and that's not what we're signing him for. I had him at that period in time when he was 19 years old, and I understand the pressure that young guy was under. I wish I could go back and be a better coach and a better mentor for him at that time."
Collins believes that Brown, who appeared in nine games last season with Golden State before undergoing season-ending surgery for a pectoral injury in January, has grown up and matured.
This is the second time that Collins and assistant Brian James - an assistant in Washington when Collins coached there - will have the opportunity to work with Brown, who has averaged just 6.8 points and 5.6 rebounds in his career. Assistant coach Aaron McKie played alongside Brown with the Los Angeles Lakers; associate head coach Michael Curry coached Brown briefly in Detroit; and assistant coach Jeff Capel had Brown as a player when he was an assistant in Charlotte.
All agree that the Sixers, Brown's seventh team, would benefit from having the 6-11, 280-pounder on the roster in the fall.
"Again, we're not asking him to come in here and be the No. 1 pick like back then," Collins said. "He's coming to a place where he feels good about. I think we're going to see the best of what Kwame has to offer."
Collins and the Sixers believe Brown's contract is one of a few they have picked up that will breed competition and help give them flexibility to make moves in the future.
Notes. Curry, a finalist for the Orlando Magic head coaching job, had his second interview Tuesday. . . . The Sixers signed backup point guard Royal Ivey. Ivey spent the last two seasons with the Oklahoma City Thunder. He was a member of the Sixers in parts of the 2008-09 and 2009-10 seasons.