- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 30, 2001

Doug Collins is hoping to hold his tear ducts in check in the opening game of the NBA season tonight, when Osama bin Laden's two go-to cities swap field goal attempts and note Donald Trump's desperate bouffant hairdo.
Collins is in charge of the 82-game surrender. He has a history of breaking down after three seasons. That process promises to be accelerated by the Wizards. As Collins knows only too well, it is easier to talk a good game with NBC than it is to sit through one with the soft underbelly of the Wizards.
The Wizards won two games in the preseason and lost six, mostly because they hand out layups like candy before patting the opposition on the fanny. They only lack a frontcourt. Where's Bison Dele when you need him? Is Dennis Rodman's work in the courtroom concluded yet?
As it is, Who's at center for the Wizards, I Don't Know is at power forward, and Michael Jordan is removing three years' worth of dust from his fadeaway jumper in order to spare Tony Cheng's neighborhood from another 19-win season.
Brendan Haywood is hurt, Jahidi White is still advertising for a pair of hands, and Christian Laettner has not bothered to show up yet. Popeye the Error Man qualifies as a serviceable backup.
This is not a playoff team unless Jordan discovers a way to defeat his 38 years, or 39 on Feb. 17. This is the hope that goes with the marginal.
"Is it scary?" Collins said after the Wizards lost at home to the Nets in preseason.
Jordan scored 41 points in the game while his teammates stood around and took pictures. To their credit, they did not ask for Jordan's autograph.
Collins insists he does not want Jordan's teammates to be decorative pieces while the legend is at work. He may come to regret that position, if the option is Tyronn Lue hoisting up 3-pointers. Lue, after all, is still working on the correct spelling of his first name.
Sports Illustrated has picked the Wizards to finish in sixth place in the Eastern Conference, which comes out to 45-48 victories. That has the whiff of being an Acapulco Gold-aided selection. That figures to be about 10 victories too many, with 35-38 victories being more like it, which in itself would be a worthy accomplishment on the part of Jordan.
"If we do well this season, Michael should get all the credit," Collins said before the preseason.
The temptation is to stick the Wizards in the playoffs as a seventh or eighth seed, if only because the desire to believe around Washington is spiked with a strong dose of basketball despondency. A playoff berth would lend more purpose to Jordan's comeback.
All the prognosticating assumes Jordan stays relatively healthy, plays in at least 75 games, and plays at a high level, which is assuming an awful lot. This also is assuming that Jordan, Richard Hamilton and Courtney Alexander mature as a collective force, capable of providing 60-70 points on their best nights.
Help is defined down with the frontcourt. Laettner is rumored to be in a Wizards uniform, although Collins has not received independent confirmation of that yet. Laettner has averaged more than 18 points a game in two of his nine NBA seasons, each seemingly completed under protest following his storybook career at Duke. He averaged a couple of beads of sweat and an equal number of APB's in the preseason.
Kwame Brown is not old enough to drink, much less old enough to impose himself on the NBA. He has this season and next to enjoy the scenery, interrupted only by the occasional scolding from Collins and Jordan.
"We don't want to play like this all season long," Jordan said after a 17-point loss to the Raptors in the next-to-last game of the preseason.
So the Wizards lost by 14 points the next night, a three-point improvement.
It is a long season, and Jordan is expected to feel that in ways he never has in the past. At least he can't blame Jerry Krause this time around. It is his team, his coach, his date with Father Time.
It should be fun, regardless, and on some nights, it might seem as if anything is possible.
But the team's frontcourt could make a person cry, not just Collins, and so the hip, hip hooray is not as loud as it otherwise would be.

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