- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 5, 2002

Washington Wizards forward Tyrone Nesby bolted through the double doors that lead from the practice court at MCI Center directly across from the team's locker room. On the way, Nesby stopped briefly and planted a kiss yes, a kiss on Courtney Alexander's cheek.
"We're a close group," Alexander said with a laugh at the end of practice. "Not too close, but we're a close-knit group."
Nesby's act of affection pretty much exemplified the way the entire team felt yesterday, one day after Alexander's 32 points, seven rebounds and four assists almost single-handedly lifted the Wizards to a 107-102 overtime victory over the visiting Orlando Magic.
The victory ended a seven-game losing streak and marked just the second win for the Wizards (28-30) since the All-Star break.
More importantly, it came without Michael Jordan and Richard Hamilton (stomach virus).
And even though he won't admit it, the victory was special for Alexander, the second-year guard of whom so much was expected but so little has been delivered this season.
With the Wizards desperate for a win and looking like fodder for an improving Orlando team, Alexander, who has become an afterthought this season, erupted for the second-best offensive outing of his career.
He fell one point short of his career-high 33 from last April 18. Coach Doug Collins called Sunday's win "by far" the Wizards' biggest victory of the season.
Alexander, who averages 6.3 points this season after averaging 17 in the 27 games he played last season following his arrival via trade from Dallas, tonight will get another opportunity to carry the Wizards to a much-needed win. The Wizards will try to avenge last week's 90-81 loss to lowly Chicago. Alexander will likely start again for Hamilton, who is still sick.
Hamilton has been unable to digest solid foods for almost a week. Yesterday he said "even rice" won't stay down, and added that he has received intravenous fluids to prevent dehydration. After the team's workout yesterday he did not sound like a man ready to play an NBA game.
"Aw, man. I still feel a little bit woozy," said Hamilton, who did not practice. "My body still feels weak because I haven't been able to eat anything. Right now I really don't have anything in my system where I can burn any energy."
Hamilton was so sick that he was unable to attend the planned retirement of his University of Connecticut jersey over the weekend.
Collins knows that if Alexander can continue to play well when Hamilton returns, the duo will help make up for the loss of Jordan.
"With Michael out, having those two guys together would make it a whole lot easier for us," Collins said. "When you've got a couple of threats out there it makes it a whole lost easier so you can't focus on one guy."
Enter Alexander. With Jordan's return to the lineup likely to happen during the team's West Coast trip later on this month, Alexander will have over the next few games what is likely his last chance to show that last season's breakout performances were not flukes.
Alexander does not believe in the Sophomore Slump. However, it is clear from the statements of Tracy McGrady following the Orlando game that Alexander's once-rising profile has leveled off after its meteoric beginning.
"We sure gave Corey what is it, Courtney? We sure gave him some hope," McGrady said following the game.
Yesterday afternoon Christian Laettner, who posted a career-high nine assists, had copies of McGrady's statement copied and posted in the locker room for all to see.
Unaware of McGrady's comments, Alexander remained pragmatic.
"The season's not over by no stretch of the imagination," Alexander said. "To make it better, we do have a real opportunity of going on and playing in the postseason. This is where guys make their money. This is where you can really make a stand and make a point that you are a player that belongs on the team and that you are a player that can contribute heavily."

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