- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 3, 2002

As he watched the Washington Wizards play 17 games without him, Richard Hamilton figured that when he returned, the light would go back on and he would continue to emerge as a dominating player.
"Muscle memory," Hamilton said. "It won't take long to get it back."
However, it might take Hamilton longer than he thought to return to the form that helped him earn NBA Player of the Week honors right before suffering a partial tear of his right groin.
"It's definitely frustrating," said Hamilton, who has averaged 10 points and shot just 8-for-23 from the field since returning. "Last night it got tired on me real quick, but that's understandable when you've been out with an injury for that long. I thought I would be able to return back to the way I was playing."
Beginning with today's date against Indiana at MCI Center, the Wizards (23-21) have three tough games before next weekend's All-Star break. They want to get Hamilton back in the starting lineup as soon as Tuesday's game with Toronto. After the break, the Wizards hit the road to play the Los Angeles Lakers, Sacramento and Phoenix.
Wizards coach Doug Collins understands Hamilton's dilemma.
"He was playing so great when he got hurt, and he thinks he's going to come back and play like that," Collins said. "No matter how good you are, when you've got that kind of injury and you've been out that long, it's going to take awhile. I think he's putting so much pressure on himself to do well that he's getting really frustrated."
With Michael Jordan's play getting most of the attention at the start of the season, Hamilton became a new player in December. In the 11 games before his injury Dec. 21, he led the Wizards in scoring six times and averaged 24.6 points.
While Hamilton was out, Jordan's game started to come around, quelling most of the talk that perhaps he had made a mistake in coming back. Jordan knows that when Hamilton returns to form, the Wizards' attack will be that much more lethal.
"I welcome him back with open arms," Jordan said earlier in the week. "He has to understand that he has to be patient. It will come back to Rip. When it does, that just means that we've got one of our best weapons back."
Said Collins: "He's just got to relax. When you're playing like an All-Star, it doesn't come back in two games."
Today's game could provide Hamilton with a chance to get back in rhythm. Flu-ridden shooting guard Hubert Davis, who replaced Hamilton in the starting lineup when he was injured, missed practice yesterday and could sit out his third game in a row. That will leave more minutes for Hamilton.
"I'm not as concerned with my minutes and points, stuff like that, right now," Hamilton said. "I just want to get back into playing shape as soon as possible."

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