- The Washington Times - Monday, January 13, 2003

Charles Oakley is as clutch as clutch gets in the eyes of reporters looking for a juicy quote.
"So, 'Oak,'" asked a New York reporter Saturday night, "do you keep up with what the Knicks are doing?"
A Knick for 10 seasons, Oakley took little time digesting the question and spit back an answer that surprised none.
"I really don't watch teams that are below .500," Oakley said, and the tabloid media scurried to their computers in the bowels of Madison Square Garden.
But even though Oakley, like Michael Jordan, will celebrate his 40th birthday later this year, Wizards coach Doug Collins still looks to him to deliver in a pinch. And more often than not these days, Oakley does.
With the outcome of Saturday's come-from-behind victory at the Garden hanging in the balance, Oakley entered the game and scored all six of his points in the final two minutes, including a huge put-back of a missed shot and all four of his free throw attempts.
"That's Oak. That's what he does," said former teammate Allan Houston.
"That's why you have a guy around like that. You saw tonight the value he brings to the game, even at his age."
It was the type of performance that won't grab a lot of headlines. They are reserved for the likes of Jordan, who once again broke the hearts of Garden fans with 23 points and 10 rebounds.
But Jordan sputtered at the end, missing his last six shots, and the Wizards had to gut it out. The flash wasn't getting it done so the Wizards had to get down and dirty.
And that is why they will continue to play Oakley late in games. The Wizards are not overflowing with talent like the Sacramento Kings or the Dallas Mavericks. They must do the little things because, in the mediocre Eastern Conference, the little things are going to make the difference at the end.
To this end, it is almost certain that Oakley will be on the floor late in winnable games alongside Jordan, Jerry Stackhouse, Larry Hughes and Christian Laettner. Saturday, Oakley's final rebound of the game a defensive snag of Houston's missed jumper with just under five seconds to play helped clinch the victory. Oakley, who got away with a subtle shove of New York's Othella Harrington on the play, was fouled by Charlie Ward and calmly stepped to the line and sank a pair of free throws to ice the contest.
"Oak was tremendous at the end of the game, again," Collins said. "He makes a difference in little ways that influence the outcome of the games."
This first came to the attention of the Wizards early this year when Oakley slowed Utah's Karl Malone considerably down the stretch in a 105-102 victory. In that game Oakley played just seven minutes. However, during that span Malone scored just one field goal.
"That's one of the things they brought me in here to do, to play tough defense at the end and to get up in people's faces," Oakley said.
"You gotta get paid for something, gotta earn your money. That's what I do."
After the game, Collins pulled Oakley aside and told him he wanted he and assistant coach Patrick Ewing to break down the things Oakley did in the waning moments for the young big men on the roster.
"I want them to get the tape out just to show them the nuances of the defensive schemes of what we're doing, because if those young guys can pick that up they are going to make us so much better," Collins said.

Sign up for Daily Newsletters

Manage Newsletters

Copyright © 2020 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide