- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 8, 2002

WILMINGTON, N.C. Like he has countless times, Michael Jordan got in the last word.

With his team trailing in an intrasquad practice game Sunday night, he rose off the bench with two minutes to go. Jordan's team trailed by five points with 1:32 on the clock before he swiped the ball from Jerry Stackhouse, sprinted downcourt and threw down a dunk, his trademark tongue-wag in effect. The next possession, he hit a jumper over Stackhouse to cut the deficit to one.

Still trailing by one with 12 seconds left, Jordan dribbled, drew a double-team and zipped a pass to 6-foot-11 Horatio Llamas, a training camp invitee, who drilled a 20-foot jump shot from the top of the key with 2.7 seconds left. Game over.

It was only a training camp scrimmage, probably not unlike many others Stackhouse had played in during his seven-year NBA career. When it ended though, he showed that was not the case when he stormed out of Trask Coliseum, clearly displeased that his team lost.

Really, players' reactions afterward were more representative of a game played in mid-March than mid-October.

"It's been that kind of camp, which has been good," coach Doug Collins said. "I think it brings out the best in everybody when you compete like that. I'm really happy with our competitiveness I think we've done a good job with that."

What transpired Sunday night serves as something of a microcosm of the Wizards' nine-day training camp, which essentially concludes tonight with an intrasquad scrimmage. (The team will practice tomorrow morning before heading back to Washington. The Wizards play their first preseason game Thursday at MCI Center against Philadelphia.) Players and coaches have remarked about the competitiveness of many of the sessions and the benefit to the team.

"I think [getting upset at a loss] is how it has to be," Stackhouse said. "We have to get more guys to get a little more not willing to accept losing. You have to play those opportunities over and over in your head so you do better with them next time. That will make us better.

"But our training camp has been competitive, I would say. But at the same time we have a lot of room to grow."

All the Wizards have grown during this camp; they've had to as Collins has put together the new pieces acquired in the offseason Stackhouse, Larry Hughes, Bryon Russell, Jared Jeffries, Juan Dixon, among others with the returning players. The combination has produced some position battles between incumbents and newcomers, especially at point guard, with no players backing down from challenges.

"People are competing for different reasons trying to make the team, for playing time," said Chris Whitney, who started 81 games last season and is one of the point guards competing for playing time this season. "That's what this is for. Guys are going hard but playing fair."

The team will find out how well it meshes in tonight's NBA game-length scrimmage, which is expected to draw a capacity crowd of 5,600 fans to Trask. Collins has not decided how he will run the scrimmage but likely will have players switch teams at different times to see how different combinations work; he said coaches particularly will be evaluating on-the-ball defending, ballhandling and rebounding. Collins does not expect Jordan to play.

This will be the first "official" scrimmage the team has had, but in previous sessions this week, Collins and the coaching staff have gotten a sense of what to expect from some players.

"We've had a lot of scrimmages come down [to a close game] when you're playing under pressure, you see the mistakes that are made that you can correct now," Collins said.

Well, then there are the plays late in a scrimmage that are made under pressure. And Jordan still makes those.


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