Sunday, April 20, 2003

Wizards in need of major repairs

NBA notes column

The (Westchester, N.Y.) Journal News

Before Michael Jordan's cape gets hung up for good, he has a small mess to clean up.

Washington Wizards coach Doug Collins is showing frustration, and several players are getting annoyed. It's going to be a long summer unless relationships are repaired.

Fingers are pointing in nearly every direction.

"There were guys who would curse me," Collins said. "Michael would step in and say, 'You don't treat our coach that way.' I have to be careful. ... Any time there's a flare-up, it's me again. Sometimes it's about players. What happens is, if a player shows disrespect, and you do something about it, it's, 'You don't get along with the player.' But you're doing the right thing. I don't understand that.

"It won't happen next year, trust me. I treat people with dignity, I expect the same in return. I don't care if we win 20 games. The game is about professionalism and teamwork and doing the right things. That's what I teach. I'll do it as long as I am a coach."

The guy Collins was referring to was Kwame Brown, who felt like he was being singled out again.

"I went to Doug and apologized the very next day," Brown said. "I got frustrated, I said something disrespectful to him and I went like a man and apologized. I'm just a little upset that he mentioned it at the end of the year."

So was Jordan. The emotional outburst nearly overshadowed his final appearance in Washington.

"Doug felt he had been disrespected," Jordan said. "These are things you have to deal with. I'd rather for them not to be out for everyone's opinion. Those are things I'd like to field internally, but I think Doug felt very disrespected."

So before Jordan goes back upstairs, he's got to help everyone find a happy medium. If this kind of nonsense continues, it won't be long before the Wizards become a laughingstock again.


Fan participation: It's probably for giggles, but Denver Nuggets general manager Kiki Vandeweghe has asked people to e-mail him suggestions for rebuilding the long-suffering franchise.

"I would love it if they would send me suggestions," he said. "They can be for the draft, for free agents, for improving the team, for game presentation. Whatever they want. My goal is to make it fun for fans at the game. I want them to have a great time."

Anybody with an idea of how Vandeweghe can make better use of his free time can reach him at


No clue: A long resume wasn't among the requirements, so Chicago Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf quickly hired television color analyst John Paxson this week to replace departed basketball operations chief Jerry Krause.

There were other candidates who had experience.

"I come in blind, and I know a lot of people may think that's a bad thing," Paxson said. "But I think that's a good thing. I don't have any preconceived notions of how this should work. My belief is we can sit down as a group and come to decisions together. Ultimately, I'm going to be responsible for the decisions. Our goal is to get this franchise to win again."

B.J. Armstrong has similar credentials as an ex-player. He also has three years of experience working under Krause, but didn't get an interview.

That's not good.

"When you become part of a team or group, you never think of what's best for me," Armstrong said. "I'm happy to be a part of it, here to assist John and the organization. I want what's best for us. John is more than qualified."


Quotable: After he left the court for the final time, Jordan offered one last goodbye. "I never, never took the game for granted," he said. "I was very true to the game, and the game was very true to me. It was just that simple."


Around the rim: It's darn close to impossible for Charles Oakley to respond with a simple yes or no to any question. When the aging Wizards forward was asked whether he would retire after this season, he was a little vague. "Leave open a little crack and let the breeze come in," Oakley said. ... Alonzo Mourning might be done in Miami, but he wants to play next season. "I think the doctors will possibly give me the thumbs up and pretty much put it in my hands as to when I'm ready to step back out there," said Mourning, a former All-Star center who's dealing with a kidney disorder. "They're very optimistic. I am as well. It's only a matter of time." ... Check out this assessment of Indiana point guard Jamaal Tinsley. "He played good sometimes and he played bad sometimes," Pacers teammate Ron Artest said. "But he did that the whole season. So he was consistent."

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