Jerry Stackhouse, late of the Central Division-champion Pistons,
has a theory about the psychological effects of a team's sudden
improvement. "When something comes together like it did last year
in Detroit," he says, "the coach and all 12 guys on the team
think they did it. The general manager thought he pushed all the
right buttons. The secretary who poured his coffee thinks she put
just the right amount of sugar in it."
He laughs at the thought that maybe it was the java and not the
Jerry that made the difference last season, when the Pistons went
from missing the playoffs in 2000-01 to a spot in the Eastern
Conference semifinals. But just ask Stackhouse about his new home
in Washington, where he landed in a deal that sent guard Richard
Hamilton to Detroit, and you'll find out who he thought was the
key to the Pistons' turnaround. "Just like I did in Detroit," he
says, "I think I can help a team that wasn't a playoff team
Stackhouse may have a point. After spending the first seven years
of his career as a one-trick pony--launching shots from anywhere
inside half-court--he matured as a player last season, sharing the
rock, playing team defense and shelving his ego for the good of
the team. His reward? He failed to make the All-Star team,
received little MVP consideration and says the Pistons balked at
a new contract that would pay him the maximum he can earn under
NBA rules. "People here really appreciate my value and what I
bring to the team," Stackhouse says of his new home, "more so
than they did in Detroit."
Foremost among the appreciative new teammates is Michael Jordan,
39, who's expected to log fewer minutes per game than the 34.9 he
played last season, when wear and tear forced him to miss the
final 22 games. (He had knee surgery in February and has chosen
to sit out the preseason.) The addition of Stackhouse and
free-agent guards Bryon Russell and Larry Hughes should allow
coach Doug Collins to stick to his plan of playing Jordan about
30 minutes a game. Whether Jordan sticks to his own stated
intention of being a sixth man is a different matter. "He's
talked about it," says Stackhouse, "but I know when he starts
smelling that popcorn, he's going to want to be out there from
Which raises the question of how two guys so accustomed to being
the focal point of an offense will mesh. Collins says he sees no
problem in the pairing and professes a love for Stackhouse's
"passion and toughness," while Jordan notes that his new running
mate is physical and "challenges the bigger guys." Translation:
Stackhouse will be attacking the rim so Jordan doesn't have to.
"Mike's talked to me about getting us some free throw attempts,
getting us into the bonus," says Stackhouse. "Either way, we look
at it like it's going to be us and three other guys out there."
In a weak Eastern Conference, the Big Two plus the Other Three
should be enough to confirm Stackhouse's Theory of Me. --C.B.
COLOR PHOTO: BOB ROSATO STAYING POWER More depth among the perimeter players should cut down on Jordan's minutes and keep him fresh.
Michael Jordan has more fellow Tar Heels as teammates this year
(Brendan Haywood, Jerry Stackhouse) than he did in his Bulls
an opposing team's scout sizes up the Wizards
"They're better with Michael Jordan coming off the bench. At his
age it's better for him to play against second-line players or
first-line players who are a little winded. Plus, he'll be a big
help to the young teammates coming into the game with him.
Jordan's lack of mobility and quickness shows most in his
defense. He has trouble staying in front of shooting guards; he
can do better with small forwards whom he can bang and grab....
The main questions are at center and point guard. Brendan
Haywood wasn't known as a hard worker when he entered the league
last year, but he came to camp in better shape. They won't worry
about his numbers so much as his effort--all they want is for
him to play hard every night.... I haven't given up on Larry
Hughes as a point guard. This is his fifth season, and I believe
that having number 23 on the team makes young players grow up
and develop a better understanding of the game. Plus the Wizards
are going to push the ball, which plays to Hughes's strength....
They'll be decent at power forward with Charles Oakley,
Christian Laettner, Etan Thomas and Kwame Brown, who looks ready
to contribute this year. He's quick with the ball, a pretty good
ball handler, and he's got a great spin move to the rim....
Jared Jeffries doesn't have NBA shooting range, but he's a 6'11"
guy who can play defense and make plays, and he'll score enough
off loose balls and offensive rebounds.... Juan Dixon is a
rhythm player. He might struggle at times, but then he'll get a
couple of easy baskets and his confidence will shoot right up.
Dixon is going to have to bulk up to become more durable,
though.... There was a carnival atmosphere around Jordan's
comeback last year. Nobody is paying much attention this time,
but this is a much better team--especially if they can manage
Jordan's minutes and keep him fresh for the stretch run."
2001-02 record: 37-45 (fifth in Atlantic)
Points scored: 92.8 (21st) Points allowed: 94.2 (11th)
Coach: Doug Collins (second season with Wizards)
STARTERS PVR* 2001-02 KEY STATS
Stackhouse 33 21.4 ppg 4.1 rpg 5.3 apg 39.7 FG% 28.7 3FG%
PF Charles Oakley232 3.8 ppg 6.0 rpg 2.0 apg 0.86 spg 36.9 FG%
C Brendan Haywood 163 5.1 ppg 5.2 rpg 1.47 bpg 49.3 FG% 60.6 FT%
SG Michael Jordan 30 22.9 ppg 5.7 rpg 5.2 apg 1.42 spg 41.6 FG%
PG Larry Hughes 93 12.3 ppg 3.4 rpg 4.3 apg 1.55 spg 42.3 FG%
BENCH PVR* 2001-02 KEY STATS
F Kwame Brown 133 4.5 ppg 3.5 rpg 0.8 apg 0.46 bpg 38.7 FG%
F-C Christian Laettner 179 7.1 ppg 5.3 rpg 2.6 apg 1.05 spg 46.4 FG%
G-F Bryon Russell 196 9.6 ppg 4.5 rpg 0.97 spg 38.0 FG% 34.1 3FG%
G Chris Whitney 218 10.2 ppg 1.9 rpg 3.8 apg 41.8 FG% 40.6 3FG%
Jeffries(R) 222 15.0 ppg 7.6 rpg 2.1 apg 1.28 bpg 45.7 FG%
 New acquisition
(R) Rookie (statistics for final college season)
*PVR: Player Value Ranking (explanation on page 92)
THEY'RE GOING TO PUSH THE BALL, WHICH PLAYS TO HUGHES'S STRENGTH
AS A POINT GUARD.