- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 23, 2003

Washington Wizards coach Eddie Jordan is trying his best to eradicate some of his team’s bad habits before they become a problem.

Like when the season opens in five days.

The Wizards play at Atlanta tonight in their final dress rehearsal before opening at Chicago on Wednesday. And even though the games still don’t count, Jordan is at the point where he no longer will accept many of the mistakes and miscues that he believes the Wizards have to eliminate now rather than next week.

For example, turning the ball over 21 times a game.

“We’ve gone through this scenario over and over again and, you know, it gets to a point where that’s not acceptable,” Jordan said.

The Wizards (2-5), to Jordan’s chagrin, proved consistent in the turnover department in a 108-92 preseason loss Wednesday night to Cleveland, their 21 giveaways falling right in line with their preseason average.

This penchant for turnovers and other mistakes resulted in the Cavaliers launching 18 more shots than the Wizards. In the process, it rendered meaningless a crisp third quarter that saw the Wizards score 39 points and go from trailing by nine to leading by eight. However, Cleveland outscored Washington 34-16 in the fourth quarter.

It was not only the turnovers that displeased Jordan.

Jordan, who says his team generally has played hard during the preseason, is trying to get the Wizards to be consistent from start to finish, mentally and physically.

And that isn’t happening.

“We turned the ball over, and we didn’t play smart,” Jordan said. “That was the last message — play hard and play smart. We played smart at some times in the game and we played hard at some times. But during winning time, we didn’t do it.”

Jordan implied that at times the Cavaliers were able to manhandle the Wizards.

“I don’t want to accept soft play and the same mistakes over and over again,” Jordan said. “I’ll accept aggressive mistakes. I’ll accept playing hard and not always playing well, because playing hard doesn’t always mean you played well. … It was a little bit of the same mistakes, and it’s time to move on from the same mistakes we’ve been making for the last 21/2 weeks.”

The best news is that the message isn’t lost on the players. Forward Kwame Brown has been one of the more consistent players. Against Cleveland, Brown had his way offensively when matched up mostly with Carlos Boozer, scoring 16 points on 6-for-9 shooting

Offensively, he showed that he can step out and hit jump shots or, when called to do so, use his quickness to get by an opponent for an easy basket. Defensively, Brown is getting his feet more involved rather than his body and his hands, which have marked his play most of his career.

But the lack of any team-wide consistency bothers him.

“It’s frustrating because we keep making the same mistakes,” Brown said. “We can do it in practice, but when we get out on the floor and the pressure is involved, we make mistakes. For the last [exhibition] game, we want to start seeing growth and we want to stay healthy. Hopefully, we’ll play hard and play smart and it will give us a good feeling going into the season.”

Meanwhile, guard Larry Hughes, bothered by a sore left Achilles’ tendon, is doubtful for tonight’s game.

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