Wizards' fast pace leaves Magic behind

Rule changes the talk after 113-110 win over Orlando

McGrady: 49

April 14, 2001|By Milton Kent | Milton Kent,SUN STAFF

WASHINGTON - If Orlando Magic coach Doc Rivers is right, a video copy of last night's Magic-Wizards game should be kept in a vault for posterity, but not necessarily because Washington's 113-110 victory was such a rarity.

Rather, Rivers is worried that the historic new set of rules that comes into play next season, agreed to Thursday by the NBA Board of Governors, may cause free-wheeling offensive contests like the one last night to go the way of the dinosaur.

"I hope I'm wrong. I really do. I'm open to trying new things. You need to try things if they aren't working," Rivers said. "I don't see anything wrong with the league. We have more young talent in the league than we've ever had. We just need it to grow up."

Take, for instance, Tracy McGrady, who in a losing effort scored 49 points against the Wizards, tying an MCI Center record for most points by one player. The Orlando swingman will turn 21 next month.

Big changes are coming to the NBA that will, for the first time in its 53-year history, permit teams to play zone defenses, along with other adjustments designed to perk up scoring and speed up the game.

The new rules also cut the time teams have to advance the ball past half court from 10 to eight seconds, relax the hand-checking regulations and prohibit defensive players from remaining in the lane for more than three seconds unless they are closely guarding another player.

The intended effect of the moves, proposed last month by a select committee, is to open the floor and get more action into the NBA game, which has been widely criticized for becoming increasingly stagnant. The changes were enacted to cut down on isolation situations where one player operates on one side of the court with others watching from across the way.

"It's hard to say exactly how they're going to affect the game," said Wizards coach Leonard Hamilton last night. "What's going to make the difference is that people are going to have to evaluate what kind of talent they have and how they can best operate within these rules to take advantage of their skills."

The change that has drawn the most discussion is the dissolution of the complex illegal-defense rules, which open the door for teams to play zones, a subject that would have been unthinkable just a few seasons ago.

The use of zones "is going to make it difficult to score, unless you're a great perimeter shooting team, which we are, so thank God," said Rivers, whose Magic shot 50 percent from the floor last night. "Bring on the zones."

"Zones? Nah," said Washington forward Michael Smith. "That's the worst one yet. We're not college players. We're NBA players. We've never had zones in the NBA, since, well, ever. You can't have that."

Alas, for Smith, there will be zones and the challenge for clubs will be to develop strategies to beat them.

"You have to wait and see, because the combination of different players may make a big difference," Hamilton said. "You might have an inside player with more shooters. You might have drivers and slashers as opposed to a perimeter shooter. Orlando seems to me to be a team that will be dangerous with the new rules. They have great perimeter shooters. Their big guys step away from the basket and can shoot jump shots, and they have slashers that can post up as well as dribble-drive."

Oddly enough, it was the Wizards who combined good perimeter shooting, slashes to the basket and solid big-man scoring to break a six-game losing streak and an eight-game skid to the Magic.

Richard Hamilton scored 30 to pace the Wizards (19-60) while Christian Laettner chipped in 26, as Washington held on in the face of McGrady's barrage.

McGrady missed an open 12-footer in the final 15 seconds that would have tied the score, then was forced to pass to Pat Garrity on the final possession, after Washington's Laron Profit missed one of two free throws. Garrity's three-point try bounced long, and the Wizards had a hard-fought win.

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