Wizards drop Jordan's home finale

Collins criticizes players for not respecting him

April 15, 2003|By Milton Kent | Milton Kent,SUN STAFF

WASHINGTON - In a game the outcome of which no one will remember, the Wizards' Michael Jordan said goodbye to his new home fans last night at MCI Center.

Jordan bowed out in Washington in a manner he came to know more frequently in two seasons here than he did in his 13 in Chicago, leading the Wizards in scoring while watching them lose, 93-79, to the New York Knicks.

After the game, Washington coach Doug Collins lambasted his team for its conduct throughout the season, saying that unnamed players had showed him a lack of respect by cursing at him.

"I have to be careful, because I have this reputation for being this [confrontational] guy." Collins said. "So anytime there's a little flare-up, it's me again. Sometimes, you need to look at the players. What happens is when players show a coach disrespect, and you do something about it, you don't get along with a player. That's not always right. You're doing the right thing, but the player has never understood that. That won't happen next year. Trust me. Trust me. I treat people with dignity and I expect the same thing in return."

Collins, who was hired by Jordan when he was president of basketball operations, a position he is expected to return to after tomorrow's season finale in Philadelphia, said Jordan had usually been the player to quell the disrespect, which he called "insidious."

"Anytime there was any disrespect, he [Jordan] stopped it immediately" Collins said. "That's the greatest compliment that he could pay to me. In five years, he never said one curse word to me ever. I've had guys in that locker room curse at me this year and show no respect. And Michael stepped in and said that's not how you treat a coach. Michael has the ultimate respect for a coach."

Jordan confirmed that he had to stop some of the cursing at Collins and added that he would move to correct the problem during the summer.

"Obviously, that is not any kind of peace and harmony or any kind of thing you want in your organization." Jordan said. "You wouldn't expect that at your job site and we don't want it around here. It's obviously a concern and something that we have to address in the offseason."

Players have grumbled privately and at times publicly about their roles with the team, including leading scorer Jerry Stackhouse, veteran forwards Charles Oakley and Bryon Russell, as well as younger players like Kwame Brown.

But this is the first time that Collins has acknowledged a lack of respect within the locker room.

"Coaches to me are to be held in the highest of esteem, because they helped get me where I am today." Collins said. "But somewhere along the line, we've allowed players to disrespect. And I never understood that. I don't care what you think or what you do, you still respect the people who are trying to bring out the best in you. Somewhere along the line that's been lost, and I sure hope we can get it back. It's not just here. It's in all cities in the NBA."

Said Russell: "I haven't disrespected him. Not yet."

As for the game, the Wizards (37-44) allowed the Knicks (37-44) to shoot 49 percent, hitting nine of 21 three-pointers, as the team dropped its fifth straight home game.

Jordan walked off the floor without addressing the sellout crowd, one of 82 that have gathered at MCI Center for all of the games in the two years that Jordan played here.

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