- The Washington Times - Monday, November 12, 2001

About 25 minutes after his team's game against the Washington Wizards yesterday afternoon, Seattle SuperSonics assistant coach Bob Weiss strolled through the victorious locker room and handed out cookies to his players, most of whom were lounging casually.
"They're soft and chewy," Weiss told his players. "Real soft."
That may have been the case, but the Sonics were backing away from the cookies, no doubt having had their fill of soft things during their easy 99-84 victory over the Wizards at MCI Center.
In another game in which the Wizards' (2-5) effort was not as strong as the deafening boos that cascaded from the rafters during a third quarter in which they were outscored 28-14, even Michael Jordan was unable to escape the catcalls of the sold-out arena (20,674). Jordan missed his first 14 shots from the field and didn't make a basket until the 4:14 mark of the third quarter.
Jordan finished with 16 points but had one of the worst shooting days of his career, going 5-for-26 from the field. He managed to extend his streak of consecutive games in double figures to 847 games.
"I couldn't get anything to go," said Jordan, who often had a quizzical smile as his shots repeatedly banged off of the unkind rims. "It was probably one of the worst shooting nights of my career, to start 0-for-14. It starts working on you mentally. You start trying to fix your mechanics during the course of the game and that's the worst way to go about it."
Despite his poor shooting, Jordan pulled down a game- and season-high 12 rebounds.
However, Jordan was not the only member of the Wizards to shoot the ball poorly. On the way to falling behind by 25 points in the third quarter, the Wizards, who lost their fourth consecutive game, made just 29 of 78 shots form the field. Normally very protective of the ball, the Wizards had a season-high 17 turnovers. Meanwhile, the Sonics made 46.9 percent of their shots including 11-for-21 from the 3-point line. The victory ended a three-game losing streak for the Sonics (3-5), and marked the end of a five-game road trip.
All this came a day after Wizards coach Doug Collins lauded the team for having its best practice of the year following the Golden State debacle in which Washington was outrebounded 45-27.
"I don't understand it, but we practice with more energy than we play. It's hard to figure out. I don't know why," Collins said. "[Saturday] our energy and our spirit was far greater than it was for the game."
At one point in yesterday's game, sensing his team was not into it, Collins pleaded with the Wizards to put up a fight.
"I'm still grasping for a group of guys I can put together," Collins said. "I was just begging them. I said, 'Guys, I'm begging you. Please compete. That's all I ask you, just compete.'"
Collins said the players have no faith in each other.
The Wizards actually made a game of it when Richard Hamilton's jumper cut the lead to 80-73 with 7:01 left. But Seattle's Gary Payton, who played masterfully on his way to 32 points, 15 assists and seven rebounds, added a pair of 3-pointers during a 12-5 Seattle run that put the game out of reach.
Payton was a little more compassionate in his evaluation of the struggling Wizards on days when Jordan struggles the way he did.
"I don't think they played with [just] a little effort, we all play with effort," Payton said. "They're trying to find their way. They're young. All of these guys come out here to play basketball. They're young and they're trying to get the feel. He's the leader and when he's not on they've got to find another solution and right now they don't have that.
"They're going to have to find someone like a Richard Hamilton or a Christian Laettner he didn't play well today and he didn't play that much but it's one of those nights where they learn that when Michael's not on we've got to have somebody else to do something."
Brent Barry added 20 points while shooting 7-for-10 from the field. He also handed out six assists.
Hamilton scored a team-high 23 points after being benched for playing almost no defense Friday against Golden State. And Laettner played just 16 minutes all but two in the first half and finished with six points and three rebounds.
Collins took some of the blame for the team's poor play, saying he has to figure out why it has been so passive in recent days.
He has shuffled lineups and exhorted the listless team, and is not about to give up on the Wizards just seven games into the schedule.
"We're going to practice defense, defense, defense," Collins said. "But the lackluster play in the last couple of games has been hard to figure out. There has been no energy and it's got to come from somewhere. That's my job."


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