- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 31, 2002

Jahidi White stood silently in front of his locker, his face expressionless. Richard Hamilton moved gingerly and also showed very little emotion. Tyronn Lue, ditto.
Despite Friday night's victory over the Milwaukee Bucks that saw the Washington Wizards (34-38) trim Indiana's lead for the final spot in the Eastern Conference playoffs to just 1 games, these three regulars in the Wizards' rotation were simply in too much discomfort to savor a crucial win.
"Man, I don't have any strength," said White, who played just nine minutes against Milwaukee with a stomach virus.
Said Lue, who missed his second consecutive game with a flu bug that has caused him to lose seven pounds in less than a week: "I'm still real weak, but I feel better,"
There is better news regarding Hamilton, who will start today's game at MCI Center against the Dallas Mavericks (50-22) after aggravating the groin injury that kept him out of 17 games in December and January. Despite having to be helped off the court afterward, Hamilton stayed in Friday's game and finished with 24 points.
"It's hurting; it's definitely sore," Hamilton said. "The only thing I can do right now is get as much rest as possible, ice it and hopefully it will feel all right."
Of the three, Hamilton is the only certainty against a Dallas team that is as deep and versatile as any in the league. Compounding matters, the Mavericks have the best road record (23-12) in the NBA. They lived up to that reputation Friday night when they gave the Boston Celtics their worst beating of the season 108-82.
"They're probably the hardest matchup in the league," Wizards coach Doug Collins said of the Mavericks. "I'm not certain how we're going to play them or who is going to be available to us. Richard should be OK, but I'm concerned about Tyronn and Jahidi."
The Mavericks believe that they have positioned themselves for a run at the NBA title after trading Juwan Howard and Tim Hardaway to Denver for starting center Raef LaFrentz and instant offense off the bench in Nick Van Exel. Since the trade, they have gone 12-5 and are in position to finish with the best record in the league and earn homecourt advantage throughout the playoffs..
"The bad thing about a game like this is that they're not coming here content with their playoff standing," Collins said of the Mavericks, who are seated atop the Midwest Division. "They're jockeying for position. They're trying to get the top seed in the conference. They have as much incentive as we do to win this game."
The Wizards scored a surprising victory against the Mavericks earlier in the season, 102-95, however, All-Star Dirk Nowitzki was injured and did not play. In that game, rookie center Brendan Haywood came off the bench to score 19 points on eight of nine shooting, and Michael Jordan had 21 points and 12 rebounds. It would be difficult to repeat this accomplishment with a healthy Nowitzki.
Haywood may get the call to start tonight. Jordan, however, will continue to come off the bench, perhaps for the remainder of the season. This, according to Jordan, is fine with him.
"I'm not here trying to make a career. I'm here trying to help this team develop and for us to win," Jordan said. "If I have to come off the bench, cool. I have no problem with that as long as the guys who are starting are doing their jobs. That's who's going to be the future of this team.
"All the ego, all the stat-watching, all the other things that most of the kids go through, I'm past," Jordan continued "If the team is playing well with me coming off of the bench, I will continue to come off the bench."


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