- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 9, 2002

The other team from Los Angeles was playing its second game in two nights, the beginning leg of a six-game trek on the East Coast.
This is always a good time to have a team in your house.
Welcome to Tony Cheng's neighborhood, Alvin Gentry. Check out the sights. Try to be as calm as possible. You have come to the wrong place to get well. You, your players, your support staff, you're just another victim. This is Washington, home of the big, bad Wizards.
So it was the Wizards 96, the Clippers 88.
The Wizards did not really play all that well last night, Michael Jordan shot the ball poorly, and the game produced dreadful stretches for all parties.
To look at it another way, coach Doug Collins said, "The thing I'm happy about now is we can get through rough stretches and find a way to win."
The win came against an improved team, hardly the team formerly known as the Paper Clips, even if Michael Olowokandi is still around and Lamar Odom sometimes comes down with the munchies.
The Clippers are young, stupid and full of energy, potentially one of the NBA teams of the future if owner Donald T. Sterling can avoid his penny-pinching proclivities. Odom will toke to that.
The 76ers beat up the Clippers the previous night, and the Wizards responded in kind. The new NBA order is evolving, especially on Fun Street, where the Wizards are learning to defend their turf.
Winning at home is one of the most important habits in the NBA. The Wizards are entitled to the cheers following their seventh consecutive victory at home and 18-14 mark.
The standings in the Eastern Conference remain startling, beginning with the 1-2 positioning of the Nets and Celtics. The Wizards are breathing hard on the front-runners, too, resting as the No. 5 team in the conference, just behind the Bucks and Pacers. Who knows what to think of it all, except the obvious? It is not easy to believe in the staying power of these teams. Pick an early favorite. Remember to cross your fingers. At least Jordan provides the Wizards with a puncher's chance.
The schedule in January is trying to be kind to the Wizards. Six of their last 11 games in the month are at home, and the Bulls and Cavaliers are two of their opponents on the road. A 7-4 record is not out of reach, and not to forget the return of Richard Hamilton and Christian Laettner somewhere in there.
That would put the Wizards at 25-18 just after the midway point of the season, in fairly impressive stead following their 2-9 start. All this is assuming Jordan's knees hold up better than his one-time commuter marriage. Most of America can relate to the problems that go with the latter. Most of America either has been divorced or is working on it.
Jordan appeared to have a lot on his mind early in the game, possibly half his estate. He missed his first four shot attempts and threw the ball away without prompting.
Collins pulled Jordan with 6:12 left in the first quarter, deviating from his customary substitution pattern. Jordan didn't find a good rhythm until late in the first half, connecting on his last four field goal attempts. The last one allowed the Wizards to close to 43-41 at halftime.
It was an ugly 24 minutes. It was enough to make Odom sick. He came down with the stomach flu in the first half and called it a night, which probably was just as well. The Clippers, who run and jump with the best, couldn't hit their free throw attempts or enough outside shots.
They lost their grit in the third quarter, just as Hubert Davis was giving his impersonation of Jordan. Davis scored 14 points in the third quarter, Jordan just two, and the Wizards took a 70-58 lead after 36 minutes.
Davis was the best player on the floor from North Carolina. Jeff McInnis, who led the Clippers with 27 points, was possibly the second.
Jordan finished with 18 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists, just two assists shy of a triple-double. He also missed a bunch of shots and had four turnovers.
Popeye Jones, who is all elbows and knees, hit the two biggest shots of the game, one after the other. The last one put the Wizards up 86-77 with 2:37 left.
"We're the epitome of a team," Collins said.
It sure looks like it.

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