- The Washington Times - Friday, October 18, 2002

NEW ORLEANS The Washington Wizards helped the New Orleans Hornets tip off the latest NBA era in the Crescent City last night as the former Charlotte franchise played its first exhibition game in New Orleans Arena.

It was not a star-studded affair on either side of the court. Michael Jordan, still officially rehabilitating his right knee, did not dress for the Wizards, and two of the Hornets' top players Jamal Mashburn and Elden Campbell were out with injuries.

So even though it was the Hornets' first game in New Orleans they had played one so-called "home" game on Sunday in Biloxi, Miss. fans may be savvy enough to wait for the real deal. The Hornets, who came into last night's game having lost three of their first four exhibition games, open the season against the Utah Jazz the former New Orleans Jazz franchise on Oct.30.

Jerry Stackhouse and Kwame Brown spoiled the party as the Wizards went to 4-0 in the preseason by winning 88-78.

Stackhouse scored 22 points and Brown had another superb game, shooting 6-for-6 from the field and 3-for-3 from the line for 15 points with four rebounds. Brown, the No.1 overall pick in the 2001 NBA Draft, is averaging 18 points in four exhibition games.

Nonetheless, the Wizards had seven first-quarter turnovers and trailed by 14 points at one point.

"We were careless. We can't do that," coach Doug Collins said. "But once we got settled down a little bit, we played well offensively. New Orleans is a very good defensive team, and they force you to make the extra pass. Once we started doing that, we got a lot of good looks at the basket."

You could tell it was preseason when both of Stackhouse's numbers fell off the front of his jersey near the end of the second quarter.

Another surprise was that Charles Oakley started for the Wizards after Collins had said he didn't expect him to play in the first four games. Stackhouse took the floor with Brendan Haywood, Larry Hughes and Tyronn Lue.

The less than capacity crowd was pleased to see Baron Davis, the Hornets' star, open the game. He suffered back spasms against Orlando on Tuesday, and his status had been in doubt. He has not missed a regular season NBA game during his three-year, 246-game career. He was joined by David Wesley, George Lynch, Lee Nailon, Jamaal Magloire and former Wizard Courtney Alexander.

When the Hornets, who went 44-38 in Charlotte last year and defeated the Orlando Magic in the first round of the playoffs, are at full strength, they figure to be a force in the East. The Wizards, if they are truly hoping to compete this year, will likely have to deal with them a fact that Collins recognized before the game.

"They're one of the best teams in the East when they are healthy," Collins said. "They have a lot of weapons, and Baron Davis is one of the top point guards in the league, and they can come off the bench with some very good role players. When you think about the East, they would have to be one of the favorites when they are healthy."

Before the game Collins urged his team to work on running the offense without having to call time out. But halfway through the first quarter, that goal fell victim to a Wizards offense in disarray. After watching his team commit five turnovers two of them by Stackhouse in the first six minutes and fall behind 14-6, Collins called time.

The break seemed to settle the team down offensively, and get it to focus defensively. Haywood hit a short jumper, and Lue stole the ball and fed Stackhouse for a dunk. Lue continued to disrupt the Hornets' offense with another steal, his second in two minutes, and though the Wizards trailed 27-17 at the end of the first quarter, the tone of the game had shifted.

The Wizards dominated the second quarter, outscoring the Hornets 31-17, and went into the locker room with a 48-41 lead mainly because of Brown, who came in to score 11 points, going 4-for-4 from the floor and hitting three free throws.


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