- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 15, 2002

PHILADELPHIA Just for a moment, forget Michael Jordan and Jerry Stackhouse are Washington Wizards. Forget Christian Laettner and the newly signed Charles Oakley, too.
The scenario won't soon face the Wizards in a game of significance, but they played that way last night against the Philadelphia 76ers, and they found out what they have without them.
The Wizards' young guns did more than hold their own throughout the 102-97 preseason overtime victory at First Union Center. Coach Doug Collins started first-round draft picks Juan Dixon and Jared Jeffries along with Kwame Brown, Larry Hughes and Bryon Russell. Russell and Chris Whitney were the only two players older than 25 to see action.
When it came to crunch time and overtime, Dixon, Jeffries, Brown and Tyronn Lue again found themselves on the floor, along with Bobby Simmons. The Wizards had a five-point lead with 20 seconds to go but an Eric Snow 3-pointer with 1.9 seconds left sent it to overtime. The Wizards pulled out the victory, but probably more important than the game's result was the young players experiencing the pressure situation.
"What happened in the last 20 seconds is worth its weight in gold," Collins said. "You can't pay for that kind of experience. So you know what? They learned by that, by how important it is to manage the clock."
Collins held out Oakley last night and plans to for the next three preseason games as well while he gets more practice time in addition to Stackhouse and Laettner, whom the coach wanted to sit to give others more minutes. Jordan joined the trio on the bench as he continues to put his efforts toward preparing for the Oct.30 regular season opener.
The Sixers played without nearly two teams' worth of players, with Derrick Coleman, Keith Van Horn and Monty Williams notable among the eight players out. Regardless, the Wizards' product was encouraging Brown, Dixon and Hughes duplicated their strong efforts on Thursday night. Brown paced the Wizards with 22 points and 14 rebounds, Dixon added 19 points all in the second half and overtime and Hughes 17 points, all in the first half.
"With our athleticism and raw talent," Brown said, "we add a few veterans in there with their experience and they know how to score when we find a mix and put out the five guys, it will be a nice thing to see."
Collins has been clear about his intentions he wants to play his young players as much as he can while resting the legs of his established players. The youthful legs translated into some harassing defense early, as the Wizards recorded nine steals in the first nine minutes according to an unofficial arena scoreboard. Particularly active were Hughes, Jeffries and Dixon, who helped limit Allen Iverson to 1-for-7 shooting in the first quarter while forcing eight Sixers turnovers in the period, after which the Wizards led 24-18.
Hughes, who came off the bench in the first preseason game, showed more of his sterling all-court game. He scored 16 of the Wizards' first 31 points, and had three assists and a steal in 18 first-half minutes.
The third quarter brought some more refreshing signs from Brown. On a three-possession stretch early in the third, Brown showed some versatility by popping out to hit an 18-foot jump shot, then he drove left on Todd MacCulloch and made a layup plus the foul. On the third possession, he zipped a nifty pass from the left wing to a cutting Hughes for a layup that Samuel Dalembert blocked. His very solid 36-minute effort was an impressive follow-up to his 20 points on Thursday.
"It's good for me because on a personal standpoint, I was inconsistent before," Brown said. "I don't want to play like a light switch, turn it on one minute, impress everybody, then turn the lights off and nobody notices."
One of the elements Collins will emphasize most in the rookies and other young players is consistency, and he had to like what he saw last night. Again, Brown and Jeffries attacked the glass aggressively they combined for 19 rebounds that helped translate into 19 second-chance points. Etan Thomas, in his first game action since battling a hamstring injury throughout training camp, started slowly but after getting his legs under him made a couple nice moves to the basket in the second half and blocked two shots.
Dixon didn't let himself be outdone in the second half he scored 12 of the Wizards' 18 points during one stretch early in the fourth quarter, including two 3-pointers.
Down the stretch, Collins went with Lue, Dixon, Jeffries, Thomas and Brown.


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