- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 31, 2002

Seen and heard last night at Air Canada Centre in Toronto:

SURPRISE, SURPRISE: In the days leading up to the game, Doug Collins refrained from releasing the starting lineup he would use. He sprung a surprise by starting Christian Laettner at center over Brendan Haywood.

Laettner was seemingly left out of the rotation when he didn't play at all in the Wizards' final preseason game Friday at Boston and played sporadic minutes in the other preseason games, but with Collins not satisfied with Haywood's production, Laettner got the call. Haywood didn't enter until 4:25 remained in the second quarter.

Collins said after the game he started Laettner instead of Haywood to give young forward Kwame Brown a veteran player to have alongside him.

WAKING UP THE ECHOES: After coaching him from his third through his fifth seasons in the NBA, Collins has as much insight as anyone to Michael Jordan's early days. In a pregame call, his wife, Kathy, brought him back to the first time he coached the Bulls and Jordan, the opener to the 1986-87 season against the New York Knicks.

During a late timeout with the game close and with Collins suffering from a splitting headache, Jordan handed the coach a cup of water and told Collins, "Don't worry, Coach, I'm not going to let you lose your first game." Sure enough, Jordan scored 50 points in a 108-103 Chicago victory.

"Does [Jordan] have one of those in him?" Kathy Collins asked.

"I don't know," Doug Collins said. "I wish I could coach him one more time when he was 25."

Duff Durkin

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