- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 9, 2003

INDIANAPOLIS — Few things rattle NBA players like lineup changes because they often think they’ve been slighted.

But following the changes Washington coach Eddie Jordan made to the Wizards’ lineup before their 114-109 overtime win over Milwaukee on Saturday, the veiled shots at the coach have yet to come.

Instead, the players preferred to talk about the best ball movement they’ve had in some time; the season-high point total they rang up, and, most importantly, ending a four-game losing streak.

“We supported it,” said Larry Hughes, whose 36 points Saturday were the most he’s scored since joining the Wizards. “All the guys who were starters who came off the bench supported the guys who started in their place. It was a team effort.”

Right before Saturday’s game, players walked into the visitors’ locker room at Bradley Center and saw Etan Thomas, Christian Laettner and rookie guard Steve Blake penciled in as starters.

Benched were Kwame Brown, Brendan Haywood and Chris Whitney, who was the only player on the roster who didn’t play Saturday.

Brown, however, had an excellent outing. Not only did he score a season-high 18 points, but his tip-in with under one second remaining pushed the Wizards into overtime and eventual victory.

“It was a chemistry thing and our chemistry recently just wasn’t very good,” Brown said. “The most important thing is that [Jordan] made a switch to get a pass-first point guard on the floor. That helped us get easy buckets. We don’t usually get easy buckets.”

The Wizards, almost to a man, loved having Blake on the court. Blake, making the first start of his career, looks to get everyone else involved long before he even thinks of taking a shot.

That Blake finished with just five assists against Milwaukee doesn’t tell half of the story. With Gilbert Arenas unlikely to return from a severely strained abdomen until early January, Blake is clearly the player best equipped to get the Wizards into their offensive sets.

“His specialty is to get us in the open floor and finding people,” Jordan said. “He puts pressure on the defense, which is what we miss from Gilbert. But we trust Steve. He calms us down even though he’s just a rookie.”

Said Blake: “I just wanted to show them that they had made the right decision.”

Jordan told the team the morning of the Bucks game that he was seriously considering the changes, not as a punitive measure, but to jump-start a team that had been getting flogged in recent outings.

“We felt we had to do something different,” Jordan said. “But we wanted everybody to feel that it was not a demotion in a sense. We just wanted to make a change because we weren’t getting off to good starts. It’s not the fault of any one individual. We were playing badly as a group.”

Because of the injuries to Jerry Stackhouse and Arenas, Jordan likely will juggle the roster as often as he needs to until the team is healthy. But when the Wizards take the floor tonight against Central Division leader Indiana, he’ll go with the same lineup he started in Milwaukee, which also includes Hughes and rookie forward Jarvis Hayes.

“It will be game-to-game,” Jordan said. “We have to see what the matchups will be against Indiana. Hopefully we can match up that way with the same starting lineup we had [Saturday]. Let’s at least think about going into the next game that way.”

Jordan added another wrinkle which he no doubt picked up from Memphis coach Hubie Brown. Brown makes wholesale substitutions, usually replacing his entire starting lineup in the second half of the first quarter.

Jordan removed his entire starting lineup against Milwaukee with 3:21 left in the first half on Saturday, inserting Juan Dixon, Brown, Haywood, Mitchell Butler and Brevin Knight in the lineup.

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide