Tuesday, November 13, 2001

Washington Wizards coach Doug Collins is not the one balking at or incapable of grabbing rebounds, playing defense, shooting straight and hustling. In fact, Collins’ coaching style from the bench is to mostly remain in his seat rather than pace the sideline working himself into a lather.
Twenty years have passed since Collins concluded his eight-year career as a player with the Philadelphia 76ers. Nonetheless, Collins does not absolve himself of the problems plaguing the Wizards (2-5) as they grasp for ways to end their four-game losing streak.
“We’re playing really bad right now, we don’t trust each other,” Collins said. “That’s my fault because I’ve got to develop these guys so they trust in each other. Right now we don’t trust, especially at the defensive end.”
Collins gave the Wizards the day off yesterday following another embarrassing performance, this one coming at home against the Seattle SuperSonics, a team that was at the end of a five-game road trip that should have made it ripe for the taking.
But Michael Jordan struggled from the field for almost three quarters, missing his first 14 shots on the way to a 5-for-26 shooting performance, and the Wizards fell in line behind him. Without starting forward Vin Baker in the lineup due to a knee injury, the Sonics still built a 25-point lead and cruised to victory.
Collins has been critical of the team’s effort in the last week, and rightfully so. In dropping their last four games going back to Nov. 4, the Wizards surrendered 100 points to every opponent except Seattle, which scored 99. Golden State outrebounded them 45-27, and Detroit, which started the Wizards’ collapse with a 22-point beating, led by 37 points in the third quarter.
But even after admitting he begged his team to compete against Seattle, Collins said following the game that the team’s struggles are as much his fault as anyone else’s.
“For some reason I have not been able to reach this team and get them to play at a high level, and that’s my fault,” Collins said. “I’ll take the blame. My job as the coach is to get these guys to be energized and to play, so that’s on me.
“As their coach, I’ve got to make sure that I’ve prepared them adequately enough so that they go out and play like a professional basketball team. There are no excuses there. I’ve got to get it done just like the players do.”
Seattle point guard Gary Payton contributed to the Wizards’ misery on Sunday when he put up 32 points, 15 rebounds and seven assists. A perennial All-Star, Payton said the Wizards would face higher expectations than they are used to because of Jordan’s presence. However, Payton pointed out the season was still young and the Wizards were an inexperienced team trying to fight through a hard time.
“I can see where some of their guys were frustrated, but that’s because they’ve got a very young team,” Payton said. “People think that just adding Michael is going to change things, and that creates unfair expectations. They’re putting a lot of guys out there who are just getting their first taste of the NBA. The main thing is that they’re going to have to be patient.
“But people have to remember that Michael took off three years and he’s still got a way to go before he’s anywhere near what he was before he retired. I think anyone can see that he’s not there yet. It’s going to take some time.”
Unfortunately for the Wizards, time is not on their side. They have already dropped the two most winnable games on their five-game home stand. Next up for them is Eastern Conference runner-up Milwaukee tomorrow. Then they’ve got two more home games against Utah and Charlotte before hitting the road again to play a surprisingly good Indiana team.
“The one thing we don’t want is for two losses to turn into four, and four losses turn into six,” Collins said. “It starts to get in your mind and then you start expecting bad things. We can’t afford to have that happen to us.”

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