- The Washington Times - Friday, March 1, 2002

Washington Wizards coach Doug Collins has wished he could go back to training camp now that he knows his players better.
Yesterday, to a certain degree, he got that chance.
As his 27-29 team prepared for tonight's road game against the Chicago Bulls (15-42), Collins had to go back into teaching mode, helping young and old Wizards grasp a new way to play basketball in the absence of Michael Jordan, whose knee surgery Wednesday will keep him out for at least three weeks.
To that end, the Wizards watched tape for more than an hour. They talked X's and O's and spent little time on conditioning. It was a day for the Wizards, losers of six straight and seven of their last eight, to sweat the mental details.
"We had maybe the best day of teaching and work today that we've had all season long," Collins said. "They're understanding what we have to do. We showed an hour's worth of tape, and our guys were attentive. They kept their focus. We came out on the floor and executed all of the things we're going to have to do.
"We worked on some defensive things and some offensive things," Collins continued. "That's a very encouraging sign because these guys are wanting to win."
That's understandable, considering the Wizards have won just one game in the last three weeks while seeing their record fall from five games above .500 to two games below.
Collins and his staff spent much of yesterday teaching because the Wizards, at this late juncture of the season, can't continue to play the same as they did with Jordan. Gone are his team-leading scoring (24.3) and assists (6.4), as well as his leadership. Those are the givens.
Jordan accounted for at least 60 percent of the team's post-up offense. The constant double-teaming he drew freed up the long-range bombers (Chris Whitney, Hubert Davis and Tyronn Lue) and made it impossible to double on the quick Richard Hamilton.
Not anymore.
By Collins' own admission, the Wizards now must have better and quicker ball movement. Almost nothing about the style they play now will be as it was earlier.
"Everything on our team was through Michael and Rip [Hamilton]," Collins said. "When we lost Rip, we had to change some things around that we couldn't do when he was there. Now Michael's out, so we're going to try to be more of a pass-and-move-the-ball team."
This was evident Wednesday night in the team's 105-101 loss to Portland. The Wizards accumulated 31 assists on 41 field goals.
"Our offense was crisp, and I felt we played at a high level for most of the game," Collins said. "The essence of basketball is ball movement and player movement. We did a good job in that regard."
However, there are some areas that won't be helped by any number of skull sessions like rebounding, which is mostly accomplished through desire and hard work. The Wizards must rebound better than they did against Portland, which pummeled them 20-8 on the offensive glass and 49-37 overall.
However, for the second game in a row tomorrow they will be without starting center Jahidi White (shoulder) and his backup, rookie Brendan Haywood (knee).
"They'll be back at the earliest on Sunday," Collins said.
That means that the Wizards will have to rely again heavily on rookies Kwame Brown and Etan Thomas. Brown logged 20 minutes against Portland, marking just the fourth time since Nov. 22 he had played 20 minutes or more.
Brown, the top pick in the draft, anticipates playing against the Bulls' young high school products, Tyson Chandler and Eddie Curry, who have been getting more minutes lately.
"It will be good for me to mix it up with my peers to see how far they've come and how far I've come," Brown said.
But it will be better still if they can get a victory every now and then until Jordan returns.
"We have to win a couple of games before Michael gets back to take some of the pressure off him," Brown continued. "When he gets back, he's not going to be 100 percent. So, hopefully, we can get this game in Chicago, come back home and win a few, and I think we'll be sitting OK."

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