- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 6, 2001

By the end of last season, Washington Wizards reserve small forward Tyrone Nesby's name was interchangeable with the term trade bait.
After starting 20 straight games last season, Nesby ended that for good just two weeks into the new year. The hammer fell when Nesby cursed out former coach Leonard Hamilton in January. Nesby threw salt on the still festering wounds two days later when his tirade in response to coming off the bench in a rout by the New Jersey Nets the eighth of 10 routs in a row only served to estrange him from the coaching staff even more.
On top of that, Michael Jordan, at the time the team's president of basketball operations, was embarking on a roster-wide purge of any extraneous salary that would put the Wizards near the projected $53 million luxury tax, an end-of-season financial penalty.
But this year, as Jordan tries to lead the team up the slope of respectability, both he and coach Doug Collins are glad Nesby is a member of the 2-2 Wizards.
"He's done everything I've asked him to do," Collins said.
The Wizards don't have an abundance of talent at any position. This is particularly true at center and small forward, where they have the 38-year-old Jordan and erratic Nesby. But Jordan has split his time among both guard positions and at small forward. This has created playing time for Nesby at small forward, who says what happened in the past will stay there.
"I don't pay any attention to that stuff. That stuff is old," Nesby said. "Anything that happened, happened. It's like when I get in an argument with my wife. Five minutes later we're back to normal. That's last year's news. This is a whole new environment. It's wonderful now. I hope it continues to being like this."
After being benched, Nesby didn't stat again until the final game of the season. In between, the Wizards tried to hide Nesby on the injured list with various injuries. But really, the old coaching staff just didn't want him around.
Collins made it known to Nesby that if he disappears from the rotation this season it will be his doing.
"I said, 'Nes, if you don't play it will be because of the things you're not doing because I'm going to give you every chance.' He gives us a big small forward. I wanted to play him against [Shareef Abdur-]Rahim in Atlanta but he got two quick fouls. I can play him against a [Keith] Van Horn and a [Latrell] Sprewell. He's got great energy and he's playing under control."
Nesby has shown that he can hit the three-pointer, and his breakaway, one-handed dunk in the team's blowout of Philadelphia in the home-opener Saturday was perhaps the most exciting play by any Wizard to date.
But it is his defense that will keep him on the court. Although he's just 6-foot-6, Collins has no qualm about putting Nesby in the game to play power forward when the Wizards try to go to a small lineup.
Last year, Nesby says, every time he went onto the floor he had no idea what the Wizards wanted from him. This year, though, he says he and Collins have a complete understanding of what's expected.
"He wants me to get in there and hit the open shot if I have it," Nesby says. "Get in there and rebound and help out on the defensive end. It's not really coming in scoring a lot. It's more of me trying to come in and get everybody pumped up and get everybody going. That's my role. It's something that I'm cool with. It's something that he's cool with."
And even though the Wizards will return to practice still smarting from a blowout loss to the Pistons on Sunday in which they fell behind by as many as 37 points in the second quarter, Nesby is still more positive about this season than last.
"It's way more professional this year. There's more chemistry on the team; there's more unity on the team," Nesby said. "You can't compare last year to this year. The coaching staff is a lot better; the players are more focused this year. It's good with Mike and Doug. I promise you it's different. It's going to be better for the team."


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