- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 20, 2001

Michael Jordan wants his young Washington Wizards teammates to keep an eye on him and watch everything he does. But he doesn't want them to take it to extreme measures, which is exactly what he and coach Doug Collins noticed the team doing in their last preseason game.

Jordan played 32 minutes Thursday night in the Wizards' 114-88 loss to the Detroit Pistons in Grand Rapids, Mich., his longest stint of the preseason. And there were too many times when his teammates just stood back and watched the action. They watched when Jordan went one-on-one and didn't make themselves available for what could have been better shots.

They made even more egregious mistakes at the defensive end, which is clearly their weak spot. In the fourth quarter when Detroit outscored them 31-10, the Pistons cruised by defenders for easy layups. And too often the Wizards' big men sat back and didn't attempt to play help defense when one of their teammates was beaten off the dribble. The porous defense resulted in the Pistons shooting 52 percent from the floor.

Making matters worse, the Wizards have not gotten consistent play from their big men. Rookie center Brendan Haywood is out for at least the next three weeks with torn ligaments in his thumb. Jahidi White, battling tendinitis in his left knee and at the same time mending from an Achilles' heel injury, has seen limited action so far.

Asked to assess the way the big men are playing, Collins noted the eight-point, 13-rebound effort by Etan Thomas, who is really a power forward disguised as a center.

"We cannot stand around and watch Michael," Collins said following the game. "I thought we got caught spectating."

The Wizards will try to reverse this trend tonight when they play their only preseason game at MCI Center against the New Jersey Nets.

"This team lacks defensive principles in terms of habits where collectively we're on a string and everybody knows everybody's tendencies," Jordan said Thursday. "This is what Doug's trying to institute so that everybody is on the same page. Defense wins games; defense holds games close until we can find our rhythm from an offensive standpoint."

Compounding their bad defense, the Wizards turned the ball over 19 times compared to just eight by the Pistons, a surprisingly low number considering the number of points Detroit scored.

"It's tough when you've got a lot of young kids. But we've still got 12 days to get us to where we've got to go," Jordan said. "We're going to make mistakes. We've just got to minimize those mistakes. So we'll struggle now and it hurts. But struggle in the season and that's a problem."

Note Richard Hamilton has a bruised right elbow and might not play tonight against the Nets.

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