- The Washington Times - Monday, April 15, 2002

While the area basked in what had to be the most beautiful, sun-splashed day of the year to date, the younger players on the Washington Wizards continued to shine the most.
Yesterday, despite falling to the Indiana Pacers 86-80 at MCI Center a loss that makes it impossible for the Wizards to double their win total (19) from last season coach Doug Collins didn't have to look far to find reasons to be happy about the play of his young players, who continued to perform with an enthusiasm the starters could not muster.
"At halftime I told them, 'Guys, that crowd likes that second unit. They got us the lead, so it's on you to get out there and play,'" Collins said.
After his starters collected just three rebounds and allowed the Pacers (40-40) to score 30 points and shoot 68 percent from the floor in the first quarter, Collins opted to go with the younger guys.
And once Collins inserted a group that included Kwame Brown, Etan Thomas, Tyronn Lue, Tyrone Nesby and Bobby Simmons, the Wizards (36-45) and the announced sellout (20,674) crowd came to life.
That group played better defense than the starters, outscored the Pacers 28-14 and outrebounded them 14-6 to forge a 46-44 lead by halftime. For the game, the starters outscored the reserves 41-39. However, the Wizards were much better when the second unit was playing.
"The young guys are just hungrier," Collins said. "Etan, Tyrone, and Bobby wish the season were just starting right now. Those guys have been huge lights for us. The younger guys are rolling now."
Simmons and Chris Whitney finished with 12 points each to pace the Wizards. Brown added 11 points and nine rebounds, and Thomas scored six points and pulled down a team-high 10 rebounds.
The second unit played better than the first whenever it was on the floor. And that's why Collins went with them mostly in the fourth quarter, when the outcome of the game had not yet been decided.
However, Indiana's Reggie Miller stifled the Wizards at the end. With three minutes left, Miller launched a 3-pointer that boosted the lead to 83-78. Jermaine O'Neal, who finished with a game-high 26 points on 10-for-18 shooting, made one of two free throws.
The Wizards, on the other hand, managed just two points in the final 4:21.
Only on rare occasions has Collins criticized his team's effort this season. But after seeing the starters shoot 16-for-45 from the field, Collins was critical of the effort of Richard Hamilton, Popeye Jones, Christian Laettner, Courtney Alexander and Whitney.
"The one thing I did reiterate is that there's not one guy in that locker room who has a resume that's good enough to mail it in," said Collins, who said he would not send out a group of rookies and first-year players against the New York Knicks tomorrow.
"There's no resume in there that says you can't play the last two games."
Collins has made a point of playing Thomas, Simmons and Brown down the stretch, making sure they get a taste of what it's like to play against players like O'Neal, Dikembe Mutombo and Derrick Coleman. He thinks his players will benefit from it in the long run and, apparently, so do the players.
"I think that's going to make us a better ball club as far as guys playing together and wanting to win," Simmons said. "That's one thing you need in the nucleus of the team: guys who want to play hard."

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