Wizards count days along with Hamilton

Weary mates await nearly mended guard

January 29, 2002|By Milton Kent | Milton Kent,SUN STAFF

WASHINGTON - Washington Wizards coach Doug Collins has been saying lately that the next happiest man, other than himself, to see Richard Hamilton return from the injured list is reserve guard Hubert Davis.

Davis may get his wish - to return to the bench, where he started the season - as early as Thursday. Hamilton, who has been out since Christmas Eve with a strained right groin muscle, appears close to returning to the roster.

Hamilton took part in an extended workout for the first time in weeks yesterday, and though he will not be activated in time for tonight's home game against the Detroit Pistons, Collins is hoping to get him back perhaps Thursday in Cleveland.

"Hubie is the one who can't wait for him to get back. He keeps looking over at him, and saying, `Are you getting back or what?' " Collins said after practice yesterday. "We've got great guys. If we can get Rip [Hamilton] back, that's only going to strengthen our bench, and it will revitalize Hubert as well. He's played so many minutes during this stretch. If there's anybody who's cheering for him to get back, I think it's Hubert Davis."

Davis, who averaged about 20 minutes for the first two months, has taken over Hamilton's starters minutes since late December, and has played fewer than 28 minutes only once since Dec. 27, and that was in the 44-point blowout loss at New Jersey, where the outcome was decided not long after the national anthem.

Hamilton yesterday said he felt better, but would wait for the effects of yesterday's workout to better gauge where he is.

"Right now, we're just day-to-day," Hamilton said. "It's really hard to pinpoint a day or game. Me and Strick [trainer Steve Strickler] talk about it. We just say that every day we're going to try to push it a little more.

"I feel better. I haven't had any setbacks, where I'm out there going and I say, `Man, I don't think I'm going to be ready.' I think every day I'm getting better."

Next to Davis, the other player most eagerly awaiting the return of Hamilton, who is averaging 19.8 points and about 35 minutes, is Michael Jordan, whose offensive game is starting to heat up, what with consecutive 40-point-plus games in his past two outings, against Cleveland and Phoenix.

Still, even as Jordan is showing some of his mid-career form, he is eager to get some help.

"I think it [Hamilton's return] gives us other options," Jordan said yesterday. "We'll try to work him back into the rhythm of what we've been doing the last three or four weeks. For me personally, I'm going to read him and see how his rhythm is. If his rhythm is good, then that takes some of the weight off me. Then you can eliminate defenses totally focusing on me. He can only aid what I've been doing the last four or five weeks.

"I'm looking forward to having him back as well as Courtney [Alexander, who returned from the injured list two games ago]. Courtney's finding his rhythm. Both those guys can aid this team and our output from an offensive standpoint."

Said Collins: "What I saw, especially as we're playing well in that one stretch, was Michael would decide on a particular night what he needed to do to start a game, and what a lot of it was to get Rip started early, and then you'd see him have a huge second quarter."

Hamilton's speed and ability to create also should give the Wizards a little defensive breathing room, which they could use. Their 112-102 win over the Suns Saturday was their first all season when allowing a team 100 points.

"If we can score, then we can defend and rebound well enough to win games," Collins said. "It's when we really struggle to score that just really puts us in a bind. Now, every defensive possession is vital, every turnover is vital."

Wizards tonight

Opponent: Detroit Pistons

Site: MCI Center, Washington

Time: 7

TV/Radio: Comcast SportsNet/WTEM (980 AM)

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