PHILADELPHIA - Kwame Brown was a bona fide bust as the No. 1 pick out of high school with Washington.
Doug Collins wished he could have done more behind the bench to ease Brown's transition to the NBA. Eleven years later, Collins and Brown get another shot at making it right. Brown isn't a teenager trying to become the all-everything star expected out of the No. 1 pick. Collins just wants Brown to become a solid rebounder, a post presence and a formidable factor in the middle as the starting center for the new-look Philadelphia 76ers.
Collins made a simple pitch to the 30-year-old Brown.
"I can't offer you a lot of money," he said. "I can offer you a home. I just reached back on my relationship with him and talked about him doing it."
Brown passed his physical Tuesday and soon will officially sign a deal that could be worth as much as $6 million over two years. The well-traveled Brown has averaged 6.8 points and 5.6 rebounds over an 11-year career.
"Kwame will do the heavy lifting," Collins said, "and play against all the big centers."
Spencer Hawes, who also agreed to a two-year deal, will move to power forward. The Sixers will stick with their core of Jrue Holiday, Evan Turner and Andre Iguodala in hopes of at least matching their run to the Eastern Conference semifinals.
It could take time for this retooled club to mesh, though.
Lou Williams and Elton Brand - the leading scorers each of the last two seasons - as well as 3-point threat Jodie Meeks are all gone. The Sixers acquired Brown, Dorell Wright, Nick Young and Royal Ivey this summer, instead. They also added draft-night pickups Maurice Harkless and Arnett Moultrie. Most of the new faces are playing on low-risk, one- or two-year contracts to give the Sixers financial flexibility for the gem of a 2013 free-agent class.
"They're playing for their futures," Collins said. "We can see how this all works, see who fits and how we want to move forward. Flexibility is key."
Brown is the most intriguing addition.
He never lived up to his No. 1 billing after Michael Jordan picked him out of high school. Only once has he averaged double digits in scoring over a full season and, even though it was in limited minutes, the 6-foot-11 center failed to block a shot last season. Brown played four seasons with the Wizards before bouncing around to the Lakers, Grizzlies, Pistons, Bobcats and Warriors.
"I think people, when they view Kwame Brown, they look at a guy that was a bust as a No. 1 draft pick in the NBA," Collins said. "That's not what we're signing him for. ... I understand the pressure that the 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 said Brown is in a "great place" now and signed for less money to play for the Sixers. Collins said he talked to Brown about not making a financial decision, but finding a team like the Sixers where people are there to help nurture him.
"He's been hurt, been stung a lot by all the criticism he's taken in his career being the No. 1 pick," Collins said. "I think we're going to see the best of what Kwame has to offer."
The move was universally panned by Sixers fans, forcing CEO Adam Aron to defend the signing on Twitter. Brown and Hawes in the starting frontcourt means second-year forward Lavoy Allen and veteran Thaddeus Young are the top options off the bench. Throw in Harkless and Moultrie, and it could be difficult for second-year center Nik Vucevic to crack the rotation.
That's fine with Collins. He believes depth, versatility and defensive toughness among a crop of forwards could ease the loss of the scoring punch provided by Williams. Collins said the Sixers had Williams penciled in for a return until Atlanta made a bigger-than-expected offer.
"We think we're young, we think we're deep," Collins said, "and we think we did it with great fiscal responsibility."
The Sixers, who used the amnesty clause on Brand, could have more wiggle room with the salary cap next summer once Iguodala's contract expires.
Iguodala could be entering his final season in Philadelphia at a time when his value - and fan appreciation - has never been higher. He won a gold medal two summers ago in the World Championships, was named to his first All-Star team last season, and is playing for the U.S. Olympic basketball team. Iguodala also hit the winning free throws in the final seconds of Game 6 against Chicago, helping the Sixers eliminate the East's No. 1 seed and advance to the second round for the first time since 2003.
Collins said the Sixers' phones were, "ringing off the hook" regarding Iguodala.
"Everybody wanted 'Dre," Collins said. "I think he's going to be the best leader he's ever been in his career. I think he and I have the best connection. We've grown with that."