- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 23, 2003

It's not easy being Tyronn Lue these days.
The Washington Wizards point guard finds himself in unfamiliar territory the starting lineup. What's more, coach Doug Collins is asking a great deal of him.
Collins handed his speedy, 6-foot point guard the ball with the implication that Lue must keep Michael Jordan and Jerry Stackhouse involved in the offense, feed the team's young post players in position to score, push the tempo when he can, hit the open jumper when it's given to him and continue to play tight defense against the league's best point guards most of whom tower over him. Oh, and Lue must do all these things while nursing a sore back.
"It hurts, but I'll be all right," Lue said.
Washington (26-28) sure hopes so. The Wizards' late playoff push will depend heavily on effective play by Lue.
"This is something new for me," said Lue, who has eight of his nine career starts with the Wizards. "This is way different than people think for me because I've been coming off the bench every year in my career. When you come off the bench, you can see the flow of the game, see what you need to do when you get in the game and how to adjust.
"When you're starting, you've got to go out there and get the flow of the game as soon as you can," continued Lue, whose promotion relegated Larry Hughes, a former lottery pick and big-money free agent, to a backup role. "You don't get a chance to see the flow. I've been up and down at times, but I think I'm starting to get the hang of it. Hopefully, I can build on some things I did [Friday] night and be more consistent."
In that game, a 89-86 victory over the New Jersey Nets, Lue scored 13 points on 4-for-7 shooting, handed out two assists and, perhaps most importantly, turned over the ball just once in 34 minutes.
Lue also did an admirable job of helping the Wizards slow down Jason Kidd. Kidd finished with just 10 points and seven assists, 9.6 points and 1.4 assists below his average. With Lue constantly in his face, Kidd had one of his worst shooting nights (2-for-13) of the season.
Things won't get much easier for Lue this afternoon, not with the Dallas Mavericks and their multi-pronged attack visiting MCI Center for a 12:30 game. The Mavericks have the league's best record, 43-12.
While much of the attention in Dallas has been on versatile forward Dirk Nowitzki, the Maverick who concerns Collins the most is All-Star point guard Steve Nash.
"He makes them go," Collins said. "He is tremendous. He's always on the attack. He's not one of these guards where if you trap him, he picks his dribble up. You have to try to build a wall and try to contain him because once he gets inside, you have to step up to help. Now he's pitching it out to the shooters, and you're in trouble. Our little guards are going to have to do a good job."
Are you listening Tyronn?
That Collins has turned to Lue this late in the season demonstrates the confidence he has in him. Collins felt his point guard had a nice game Friday against the Nets, but it was overshadowed by Jordan's 43 points.
Collins understands the gamble involved in starting the inexperienced Lue, even though the guard has two NBA championship rings from the Los Angeles Lakers.
"Three years ago he was on the injured list playing spot minutes," Collins said, "and now we're asking him to be a 30-plus minutes a game player for us."
Lue is averaging 10.4 points, shooting 40 percent from the field and averaging three assists in the seven games since being named the starter.
During that stretch he's had some nice games (21 points, four assists in a win over the Los Angeles Clippers), but he's also had a few clunkers (1-for-7 shooting, three points and three assists in last week's loss to Utah).
"Sometimes he gets down on himself, and I've got to give him the pep talk to keep him going," Collins said. "He had that rough one at Utah but he bounced back from it. I thought he did a great job [Friday] night."
Reserve center Etan Thomas, who left Friday's game in the first half after getting hit in the left eye by New Jersey's Richard Jefferson, is questionable today. X-rays were negative, but his eye was swollen shut yesterday. Thomas received eight stitches in his lip Thursday after Brendan Haywood inadvertently hit him during practice.

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