The Warriors announced Thursday that the former No. 1 overall pick is expected to miss at least three months because of a chest injury, putting the much-maligned center's season in serious jeopardy. He will have surgery in the next few days to repair a tear in his pectoralis major, the large chest muscle that attaches to his right shoulder.
Brown could return in April if the team is in playoff contention.
"It's a blow," Warriors general manager Larry Riley said. "I've struggled since I've been here to try to get us a player with some size and a physical presence in the middle. And I was quite hopeful that with Andris Biedrins and Kwame Brown's presence in the middle, that we had ourselves in a good situation and that would be productive for us. But that's all kind of water under the dam now."
Brown's injury is only the latest for a team still searching for its place under new coach Mark Jackson.
Point guard Stephen Curry is back in Charlotte, N.C., rehabbing his troubled right ankle -- which he had surgery on May 25 only to sprain it at least three times already this season. He will rejoin Golden State when they play at Charlotte on Saturday, when the team hopes to have a clearer time frame for his return.
Biedrins had missed the last three games with a sprained right ankle before returning against the Orlando Magic on Thursday night. But starting small forward Dorell Wright missed the game with a bruised right knee.
"We're a no-excuse basketball team," said Jackson, echoing his season-long mantra.
Brown's injury popped up in the fourth quarter of Golden State's 111-106 overtime victory over the Miami Heat on Tuesday night reaching in to foul Udonis Haslem. Brown had started the past three games, averaging 9.7 points and 6.3 rebounds and was among Golden State's best interior defenders.
The Washington Wizards selected Brown with the top pick in 2001, but he never became the force inside so many had projected. He played for the Lakers, Memphis, Charlotte and Detroit before signing a $7 million, one-year deal with the Warriors in December.
"Tough loss," Jackson said. "I'll tell you, this guy has done everything we've asked him to do. He's brought a toughness and a presence to this basketball team. Tough loss for us. Even sitting out there with his shirt on (Tuesday night), still being part of the team, he was a jewel for us."
Riley said the team already has explored options to pursue another big man since Brown's injury revealed itself in an MRI exam. After missing out on Tyson Chandler (New York) and DeAndre Jordan (Clippers) during free agency, it's unlikely Golden State will be able to land an impactful center without a blockbuster trade.
Coincidentally, the Warriors aren't the only team searching to replace an injured big man.
Atlanta's Al Horford went down with a similar injury and is expected to miss at least three months. The Hawks had been hopeful to contend in the Eastern Conference.
"Those are strange (injuries) in basketball. You just don't see that. Those are football and weightlifting injuries," Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said before his team faced the Warriors. "You see a lot of defensive linemen, offensive linemen and weightlifters get those injuries. The time I've been in the league, I can't remember another guy with a torn pec, it's a strange injury for our league."