- The Washington Times - Monday, January 20, 2003

Help looks like it's on the way for the Washington Wizards.
Jerry Stackhouse, who has missed the last three games with an injured groin, hopes to return as soon as Wednesday when the Wizards make their first regular-season trip to New Orleans.
Stackhouse, who first felt a tweak in his groin in the Wizards' loss to Golden State on Jan.10, further aggravated his groin the next night against New York.
Yesterday during a light workout, the team's leading scorer (22.5) went through shooting drills but did little else. He'll further test the groin with some stretching before today's game with Denver. If he doesn't experience any swelling tomorrow, he might be available to the Wizards on Wednesday.
"He said he felt pretty good, which is a positive sign," Wizards coach Doug Collins said. "Tomorrow he can pick it up and do a little bit more and the day after that, and if everything goes well we'll have him back in time for New Orleans, that's pretty much the game plan."
The Wizards' injury report also included good news about Larry Hughes, who left Washington's 88-80 loss to Philadelphia on Saturday night with a stomach virus. Hughes made little impact in 26 minutes, scoring just four points and committing five turnovers, but yesterday he said he was in the clear.
"I feel good," Hughes said. "Whatever I had it's over."
On top of all of that, Kwame Brown hurt his hand in the first half, returned to the game in the second half following X-rays but had to leave again after suffering a bloody nose.
"We're sort of the walking wounded at this time of the year," Collins said. "It's sort of that time right before the All-Star break. We have eight games left until the break. If we win tomorrow we've won seven of our last 10 games with some injuries and all that we've had occur. With all of the injuries I'm very happy with that."
Still, they need to win today to go at least .500 on a four-game home stand that, for a number of reasons, has not yielded the results the Wizards had hoped for.
Five of their last six games have been at MCI Center. During that stretch they have lost to Golden State they were out-rebounded 48-34 and Toronto, which dressed just eight players, three of whom were on 10-day contracts.
But in the mediocre Eastern Conference the Wizards are bunched in with the Sixers, Orlando and New Orleans, separated by just 1 games, for positions five through eight in the conference. With that in mind, today's game is sort of a must-win situation considering New Orleans is tough (13-6) at home.
At 20-20, the Wizards have the same record as they did through 40 games last season. However, that team caught fire leading up to the All-Star Game, winning six of its next seven to arrive at the break 26-21.
Michael Jordan said this year's team is better equipped than last season's for the remainder of the season.
"We are learning how to play without key people and hopefully when we get all those people back it will make us much better," Jordan said. "But I think we're still in a great position, compared to where we were last year. We made a strong push right before All-Star last season but it's going to be tough. I'd like to see us make a strong finish and then hopefully everybody stays healthy so that we can find our groove. I still like the way we've positioned ourselves. Now we've just got to keep playing hard."
One encouraging sign has been the return of Juan Dixon to the lineup. After missing more than six weeks with a badly sprained left elbow, Dixon came off the bench against the Sixers to score a season-high 19 points.
"I know my role when I get in the game," Dixon said. "I've got to try to put pressure on the ball, hit some shots and play with a lot of enthusiasm."
To that extent Dixon has satisfied Jordan.
"He's really improving," Jordan said. "We're going to need that out of him the rest of the season."


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