- The Washington Times - Friday, February 14, 2003

SALT LAKE CITY Jerry Stackhouse wants to play basketball but will not be in the Washington Wizards' lineup for tonight's game against the Utah Jazz.
Stackhouse, who has not played since straining his groin Jan.30 against Milwaukee, caught a red-eye back to Washington for an MRI today.
"I want to make sure before I go back out there that it's looking right," said Stackhouse, who will miss his fifth game. "I felt good the last time. I went back and it wasn't healed, so I'm going to get the MRI."
It is the same injury that forced Stackhouse out of four games last month. Stackhouse thinks he hurried back and that is why he is still not 100 percent.
Stackhouse will try to play Monday when the Wizards (25-26) return to MCI Center for an afternoon game with Vince Carter and the Toronto Raptors.
"I'm fine with that," Wizards coach Doug Collins said. "We'll miss Jerry. He and Michael [Jordan] give us edge about ourselves. When we lose Jerry it hurts. We can't ask Michael to go out and get 40 and try to carry us and do everything for us. We miss the attacking, driving aspect that Jerry brings."
Jordan, who fouled out of a game on Wednesday for the first time since the 1991-92 season, agreed that it was better to go the better-safe-than-sorry route with Stackhouse.
"It's important for us to get him back in good rhythm," Jordan said. "I don't think we want to throw him in the fire. We want to make sure that he comes back gradually. He's got an injury that can linger for some time. If we try to put him in a situation where he can't play as many minutes we're going to see him back over there sitting on the sidelines so we're going to have to gradually bring him back."
Meanwhile, the Wizards played down the fact that Charles Oakley had to be restrained from attacking Los Angles Clippers coach Alvin Gentry as the teams crossed paths at the shootaround Wednesday at Staples Center.
Oakley will not receive a fine or suspension from either the league or the team.
"As far as we're concerned it's over with," Wizards general manager Wes Unseld said.
According to league sources, Oakley blames Gentry for reporting an incident Dec.1, 2000, when Oakley, then with Toronto, sucker-punched Jeff McInnis, now with Portland, during a shootaround.
Said Oakley: "Didn't nothing happen. If something happened I probably wouldn't have played last night."
A witness said players had to restrain Oakley, but Gentry had a different version.
"I heard what people have said but he didn't charge me. I was talking with [Clippers assistant Dennis Johnson], Doug and Patrick [Ewing] when [Oakley] came up and said something to me. But no one grabbed him and he didn't have to be restrained."
Regardless, Oakley will almost certainly play a role in tonight's game against Utah (30-21), which is coming off a 106-76 home bludgeoning by Houston, because Collins has more confidence in his older players once again.
Collins has opted to go with veteran players, especially when they have a good thing going. This was the case on Wednesday in the Wizards' 108-104 victory over the lowly Los Angeles Clippers.
When the Wizards built the 14-point cushion in the third quarter that would allow them to stave off a Clippers surge in the fourth quarter, Collins went with a lineup that featured four players over the age of 32 Christian Laettner, Jordan, Oakley and Bryon Russell and Tyronn Lue (25), who usurped the starting point guard spot from Larry Hughes.
That lineup broke open a close game and proved the difference between winning and losing. According to Jordan, it's likely that lineup and some other variation close to it will be on the court late in games when the outcome still hangs in the balance.
"When you're on the road, there's a certain poise, a certain confidence that you've got to have," Jordan said. "When we go to our younger players this is something still new to them. Our veterans know how to do it. Christian's one. Oakley's played well, he's been in a lot of big games. Brendan played well and Ty Lue played well. Our veterans gave us a lot of leadership today. We needed a win. That's Doug's call. He felt we needed to go with some depth and leadership and it worked for us."
Another call that is Collins' is his decision to go with Lue at point guard, and bench Hughes, the free agent the Wizards shelled out $15million for over the summer.
Collins and Hughes had a sit-down meeting before the change was made. Saying the move was done for the good of the team, Collins added that if the move to Lue does not have a positive result, Hughes could be back in the starting lineup quickly.
That's fine with Hughes, who is not happy but willing to abide by Collins' decision.
"You leave it up to Coach, let him make a decision and you go out there and play," Hughes said. "It's a surprise. I thought I was playing pretty well. We struggled, but we've struggled before. But it's the decision he made. I'm not happy with it but I've got to adjust to it.
"But it's definitely something that I didn't want to have to deal with. But I'll let the coach do his job. If he feels like this is the way we go, this is what we do. Now, can I say I expect to be back in the starting lineup? I don't know. I didn't expect to be coming off the bench."
Lue, who struggled like everyone else on the roster in a miserable loss to Sacramento at the start of this road trip, rebounded superbly Wednesday in the Wizards' 108-104 victory against the Los Angles Clippers. Lue finished with a season-high 21 points, hitting eight of 12 shots, including three of five 3-pointers.
"Ty Lue is doing a great job of running our team," Collins said.

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