Chastised Wizards await Magic

Jordan's strong words stand

Stackhouse relents

Pro Basketball

March 11, 2003|By Milton Kent | Milton Kent,SUN STAFF

WASHINGTON - With a critical game against the Orlando Magic in front of them tonight, the Washington Wizards practiced their backpedaling skills yesterday in an attempt to take some of the sting out of biting comments Sunday from their two leaders.

While coach Doug Collins and other players shrugged off Michael Jordan's observation that he, at age 40, had more desire than his far younger teammates, Jerry Stackhouse ever-so-slightly backed off remarks that he needed the ball more in order for the team to win.

Following Sunday's 97-96 loss to the New York Knicks, Stackhouse said that he had to take more than the seven shots he attempted to be a more credible offensive weapon.

Yesterday, Stackhouse allowed that his comments were made in the heat of the moment of a tough loss and that he hadn't considered the remarks would take on the significance that they did.

However, the eighth-year veteran, Washington's leading scorer, didn't shrink from the substance of what he said Sunday.

"I still say that it's not up to me," Stackhouse said yesterday. "I'd love to come out [tonight] and have 50 and we win the game and we're right back in the middle of things. But not all of that is under my control. I still say that. We have to do some things that I feel are beneficial to me getting into the flow.

"[Sunday] maybe, it was just the fact that I got into foul trouble. If I don't get into foul trouble, maybe that happens. I come out of the game and Michael has to pick it up immediately for us to remain competitive, which he did. He did a great job and we kept riding it and riding it. I can't knock that, but at the same time, I want to get going, too. At the end of the game, I don't want to come off like I'm letting the team down by having one field goal. Everybody understands that, and that's what we're trying to convey to you guys, so you understand it, too."

Stackhouse acknowledged that he did play passively Sunday after picking up two fouls in the first 2 1/2 minutes guarding New York's Allan Houston, who had 15 of his 28 points in the first quarter.

When he returned, Stackhouse said he wasn't as aggressive on offense or defense, and his play - and by extension, the Wizards' play - suffered.

In the process, the team dropped two games behind the Milwaukee Bucks in the race for the eighth and final Eastern Conference playoff spot with 19 games to go, and trail the Magic by 2 1/2 games for the seventh spot.

"I was kind of passive, but I still feel that there were opportunities that I could have gotten in the flow," said Stackhouse. "That's just me internalizing things, but in the big picture of things, for us to play well, I have to play at a certain level, and we have to have other guys play at a certain level. That's where I am with it, ready to move forward."

After yesterday's practice, Collins declined to directly address Stackhouse's Sunday comments, saying, "I never do my stuff through the media. I didn't know it was your guys' job to ask questions to me regarding our team."

Likewise, Collins neatly stepped around the crater left by Jordan's bombshell comments, following his 39-point performance Sunday, that a lot of his teammates weren't willing to do the necessary things to win.

"I've always felt the leader's and best player's words go a lot further than anything the coach could ever say," said Collins. "I think anytime Michael speaks, it's a good thing, because Michael speaks from winning. That's why I love for him to speak, and that's why I don't think it's necessary for me to reiterate anything."

Said guard Larry Hughes: "I take those as personal comments. Guys have to look at themselves, and if those comments affect them, then that's probably who they were made for. I didn't take anything from it, because personally, I try to give it every time I'm out there."

Jordan did not comment yesterday after practice.

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