Alexander guarded on facing ex-team

ON THE NBA

Pro Basketball

January 26, 2003|By Milton Kent

Courtney Alexander wanted Wednesday's game badly.

Alexander, a 6-foot-6 reserve guard for the New Orleans Hornets, wanted to face the Washington Wizards in the worst way, not just because the game was nationally televised or because the Hornets and Wizards are jockeying for playoff position.

He missed that game with a strained groin, but Alexander said he wanted to play "for a lot of different reasons, and anybody who really knows me knows what those reasons are. But I really shouldn't say anything."

Alexander spent a season and a half in Washington before being traded to the Hornets in the offseason for a first-round pick the Wizards used to take Juan Dixon. He was going to be spectacular in Washington, and everyone knew it, particularly Michael Jordan.

Then-president of basketball operations, Jordan pulled off the deadline-day trade two years ago that brought Alexander, Loy Vaught, Christian Laettner, Hubert Davis and Etan Thomas to Washington from Dallas for Juwan Howard, Obinna Ekezie and Calvin Booth.

Only Thomas and Laettner remain in Washington, but the disappointment over Alexander's departure is palpable.

Alexander, who led the nation in scoring at Fresno State after transferring from Virginia, had the kind of sculpted NBA body and ability to jump through a roof that reminded Jordan of, well, a young Jordan. And the genuine article profusely praised the seeming future version of himself on the day of the trade.

Alexander averaged 17 points in his 27 games in 2000-01 as a Wizard and showed plenty of offensive ability. But the new Washington coaching regime last season, headed by Doug Collins, showed frustration with Alexander's dual unwillingness to play its style of defense and to play hurt.

His minutes and scoring dropped significantly while his frustration rose to the point where he called his relationship with Collins "terrible."

"I wish that I handled certain situations better," Alexander said. "Just like in everything I've encountered in my life, you live and you learn. I wasn't mature enough. I just didn't have education about what I was going through and how to deal with it and how to handle it, especially ... the kind of adversity that I was going through.

"But it happened for a reason, and I'm glad it happened. But I loved the city. I love the people. It was just the situation -- we all needed a change."

And so Alexander, the 13th overall pick in the 2000 draft, got his change, the trade to New Orleans. He is the first guard off the bench, usually spelling Baron Davis or David Wesley, and averages 9.1 points a game.

Alexander, who would appear to be at a career crossroads, said he doesn't think he needs to prove that he can play in the NBA and hopes to demonstrate that to the Wizards in Saturday night's game in Washington.

"Whatever perception people have of me, they're going to have. I know I can play," Alexander said. "What I feel I need to prove is that I can play at a high level every night, no matter what. Those are things that I have to prove, and those are things that I've done a great job in proving this year.

"In all of the big games and all of the big moments, I've contributed -- and not necessarily with points. There have been very few games where I've been on the bench at the end of the game. That means my coach and my teammates have a lot of confidence in me, and that's all I can really ask for."

Quiz

Brent Barry's entry in the three-point shooting competition during All-Star Weekend will give him a chance to become the first player to win the long-distance and dunk competitions. Name the four players who have repeated as three-point shooting champions.

Head scratchers

The firing of John Lucas in Cleveland and the seven-game suspension meted out to Portland forward Rasheed Wallace are two of the league's more logic-escaping events.

Lucas, who admittedly was presiding over a rat-filled ship when he was excused last week, had been told basically not to worry that the Cavaliers would stink for a while but to get them moving in the right direction. Instead, the former Maryland All-American got whacked by general manager Jim Paxson, as he was trying to establish a winning attitude.

The move angered potential No. 1 draft choice LeBron James, who could make things difficult for Cleveland to select him this summer.

Even more puzzling was the league's decision to nail Wallace with a seven-game suspension for a post-game dust-up with official Tim Donaghy, as the referee left the Rose Garden after a Jan. 15 game against Memphis. Wallace reportedly cursed at and made gestures toward Donaghy, who reportedly cursed at Wallace, as well.

Granted that Wallace, who led the NBA in technical fouls last season, has a bad temper and a history of bad acts. But that didn't warrant seven games, particularly in view of three-game suspensions to Indiana's Ron Artest for breaking a TV camera and to Golden State's Chris Mills for trying to provoke a post-game fight with the Blazers, both at the arena and off the premises.

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