Police are investigating sexual assault allegations against Los Angeles center Kwame Brown, who started in the Lakers' playoff game Tuesday night against Phoenix shortly after releasing a statement proclaiming his innocence.

The alleged assault occurred early Saturday, hours after the Lakers beat the Suns in Game 3 of their NBA playoff series, Los Angeles Police Department spokesman Jason Lee said Tuesday.

Police did not say when the report was filed or by whom. No charges have been filed, and Brown denied any wrongdoing in a statement issued through the team office Tuesday night.

"I want to assure everyone that I am completely innocent of any wrongdoing and look forward to the truth coming out when this matter is fully investigated," he said. "However, on the advice of my attorney, I cannot comment further at this time."

The 24-year-old Brown started the game in Phoenix, where the Lakers lost but still hold a 3-2 advantage over the Suns. Brown scored 14 points on 6-for-6 shooting, but was plagued by foul trouble.

"We are aware of the release issued earlier today by the LAPD," the Lakers said in a statement. "However, due to the fact that this is an ongoing legal matter, we cannot comment at this time."

Lee said the Los Angeles County district attorney's office had been made aware of the investigation, but declined to provide further details.

Los Angeles coach Phil Jackson said before the game that he had spoken with Brown about the matter.

"I did say something to Kwame: 'You know we have three priorities -- basketball, basketball and family. That's it.'"

Jackson said Brown would play his usual minutes in the game, "if he can focus and play through this. I'm sure it's a distraction."

"We're not even going to discuss it," Jackson said. "It's a basketball team and we've got to focus on what we need to do."

Desperately needing an inside presence, the Lakers acquired the 6-foot-11, 270-pound Brown from Washington in a four-player deal last summer, sending highly regarded perimeter player Caron Butler to the Wizards.

Brown was a disappointment in four seasons with the Wizards after they made him the first pick in the 2001 NBA draft following his graduation from Glynn Academy in Brunswick, Ga.

Brown has picked up his game considerably since replacing Chris Mihm as the Lakers' starting center after Mihm sustained a severely sprained right ankle March 12. Brown had been coming off the bench before Mihm got hurt.


Wed 05/03/06, 3:19 am EST



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