Collins' touch failing to jog sleepy Wizards

Coach isn't producing past results in present

November 22, 2001|By Don Markus | Don Markus,SUN STAFF

WASHINGTON - In his two previous stints as an NBA head coach, Doug Collins saw an immediate turnaround in one team and a steady climb to respectability from the other.

After his first 10 games with the Chicago Bulls in 1986-87, Collins had seven wins in what would be a 40-42 season. After 10 games with the Detroit Pistons in 1995-96, Collins had four victories with a team that would finish 46-36.

Both teams made the playoffs.

His latest head coaching foray has been only slightly worse with the Washington Wizards than it was with the Pistons, but, in this case, the record might be deceiving. The Wizards don't show any signs of reversing what is now a seven-game losing streak.

Having completed a disastrous five-game homestand without a victory - or even a sniff of one - Washington (2-8) will take its troubles on the road tonight against the Indiana Pacers (7-6) at Conseco Fieldhouse.

"We are a team right now that is playing with absolutely zero confidence," Collins said after Washington's most recent defeat, 95-88, to the Charlotte Hornets on Tuesday night at MCI Center.

Despite Michael Jordan finding his shooting touch in his return to the NBA after a three-year layoff, the Wizards have given the 38-year-old legend the longest losing streak in his 14 seasons.

"I've never experienced seven losses, but with this trying time, it's something we have to continue to work on until we get it, and right now we're not getting it," Jordan said. "You have to be strong through these moments and not point fingers at other people. Everybody has a job to do, and we have to collectively do our job at all times."

While Jordan scored 30 points on 13-for-23 shooting - the third straight game in which he hit at least half his shots - the rest of the team was a dismal 20-for-54 (37 percent). That was a little better than the previous game, when Jordan's 44 points on 17-for-33 shooting against the Utah Jazz was offset by the rest of the Wizards' scoring 48 points on 15-for-56 shooting (27 percent).

"We cannot attack inside, so everything we do is perimeter," Collins said. "So if we don't make shots ... we get no easy baskets."

Conversely, it seems as if whoever the Wizards play barely breaks a sweat running their own offense. Despite playing without starters Jamal Mashburn and David Wesley, the Hornets were nearly unstoppable during a third-quarter run, particularly point guard Baron Davis.

"All I've done is try to put demands on them to make sure they [play] both ends of the floor," Collins said. "I sure hope that hasn't overpowered them. We've got to be able to stop people, and I don't know whether or not we have that capability right now.

"You've got guys who have normally scored in their careers who are struggling right now. Rip [Hamilton] is struggling right now. He normally is a guy who can find a way to put the ball in the basket. He hasn't been able to do that."

It was interesting to listen to the Hornets talk about how they turned themselves around against the Wizards after falling behind by seven points in the second quarter.

"We started shaky. We didn't make shots," said Davis, who wound up with 32 points. "Then we started playing hard and with energy. We started yelling at each other. That's the character of our team, being able to play with a lot of emotion. Being able to play with a lot of controlled emotion is what we have to get back to."

Maybe that's what the Wizards need. Though Collins and Jordan each carved his own reputation for being a bit caustic, they have seemingly treaded softly so far on a group of players coming off a 19-63 season. Jordan reportedly had one halftime tirade, at home against the Philadelphia 76ers on Nov. 3, the team's last victory.

"I don't know how the guys respond to Michael. I know that Michael is going to play with tenacity and play the way he plays," Collins said. "I don't know if Michael overwhelms them or if I overwhelm them. We got a violation on a sidelines inbounds play early in the game. I looked at our coaches and said, `Guys, we're not even ready.' "

Said Jordan: "Everybody has messed up. I've made mistakes, other guys have made mistakes. So we have to look in the mirror and see how we can make this team different. It's not how one person can make this team different. We're getting there. Doug is not a fly-by-night coach. He's experienced in helping programs turn around."

The teams Collins inherited in Chicago and Detroit were not unlike these Wizards. The Bulls had losing records in the five previous seasons and seven of the previous eight. The Pistons had won a combined 48 games the previous two seasons before Collins arrived, and won 54 the year after he took over.

But this team has been something of an enigma to the coach.

"I just wish I could get the guys to play with some passion, just like they enjoy playing," Collins said. "It's almost as if they don't like to play."

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