- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 20, 2002

In a 24-hour span last weekend, the Washington Wizards went from a team on a roll winning four of five games to a team that was outplayed by Philadelphia. Now, the Wizards must wait for a Friday trip to Houston to rid themselves of the bitter aftertaste of their loss to the 76ers.

As the Wizards (6-5) regrouped yesterday, many players questioned how they could go from one of the best defensive games in the history of the franchise Saturday they held Miami to 65 points, the lowest output by an opponent in franchise history to a team that Philadelphia outplayed in every facet of the game Sunday.

Philadelphia's trapping defense caused a season-high 23 turnovers by the Wizards. Although both teams played the day before, the Sixers, supposedly softer now following the acquisition of Keith Van Horn, forged a 40-28 rebounding advantage and posted a season-high 14 steals.

So what gives?

"Carelessness, man," starting forward Bryon Russell said. "It's not just one or two people; it's everybody. We throw the ball away. We don't help. We don't move the ball. When we played the Miami game we swung the ball so well and hit big shots. In the Philadelphia game the ball started sticking again.

"In order for us to be a good team we've got to be unselfish. You've got to know that if you get that man a better shot, then maybe they'll run to him next time and you'll get the ball and get the next shot."

The Wizards spent a good part of yesterday reviewing tape of the Philadelphia loss. Wizards coach Doug Collins wanted some of his young big men Kwame Brown and Jared Jeffries, in particular to see some of their mistakes.

Collins said some of the players looked as if they had forgotten all of the basic tenants of basketball in Sunday's loss. While watching the debacle, Collins pointed out how players failed to bail out the guards when the Philadelphia trap came, mostly by not checking to see where defenders went (often to trap) or what type of duress the guards were under against the press.

"We've got to do better. If we don't we'll be a sub-par team, below .500," Russell said. "We've got talent, but talent ain't no good if you don't put it to use. Our problem is that on paper we look good. On the court we look good sometimes."

The Wizards' biggest problems appear to develop on the road, where they are 1-3 and have played horribly. The Wizards opened the season at Toronto scoring 68 points. At Minnesota they blew a late double-figure lead by shooting 2-for-22 in the fourth quarter, and against Philadelphia nothing worked.

Their lone road win came against a Cleveland team that is in last place in the Central Division.

Collins believes the Wizards have not yet learned how to deal with the added pressure that comes with playing on the road.

"Under pressure we break down and don't run our stuff through. What happens is the ball gets stuck," Collins said. "Now we get caught watching Michael and Jerry. And that's happened more so on the road than at home."

Notes Collins said yesterday he is not going to force former Maryland star Juan Dixon to become a point guard: "I think everybody thinks I'm going to make Juan a point guard. That's not what I'm going to do. I'm not going to change who Juan Dixon is. Juan Dixon is a great scorer and a tremendous guy defensively, especially off the ball. I'm not going to change that." Dixon's playing time has been limited because of the Wizards' crowded backcourt situation.


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