The Washington Wizards' frustration about a three-game losing streak resulted in a shouting match between forward Juwan Howard and assistant coach Wayne "Tree" Rollins during a meeting after Saturday night's 130-129 double-overtime loss to the Bucks in Milwaukee.
"Nobody had to be restrained, nothing happened," said Rollins, who coaches the Wizards' front-court players. "It never even came close to getting that heated."
Even so, Rollins said he and Howard apologized to each other Monday at practice.
"What was reported was definitely false," Howard said. "I will tell you honestly, all my teammates and coaches and whoever else was there know that Tree Rollins and I didn't get into a fistfight. There were some words exchanged between us. I apologized for my actions. I thought that I was wrong, and he respected that. You've got two competitive guys that want to win and the frustration settled in.
"Those things still are not supposed to happen. When I thought about it, I was upset about it. We both were wrong any way you put it. It's not a good reflection on the team and it's not a good reflection on this organization."
Some players said Howard and Rollins were angry Saturday night but they supported Rollins's account that it never got to the point where he and Howard had to be separated or that blows were exchanged.
New York Post columnist Peter Vecsey, citing team sources, reported yesterday that Howard and Rollins came close to fighting after Howard took exception to remarks made by Coach Gar Heard and follow-up remarks by Rollins.
General Manager Wes Unseld, who was not in the locker room but said he spoke to several players and all his coaches after reading of the account, and Heard played down the incident.
"I'm divulging everything and there is absolutey nothing about anybody coming to blows," Unseld said. "It was emotions after an emotional loss. From my understanding, things were said by the coaches and a player responded and that was it."
Said Heard: "Somebody got [mad] after the game. If I reported to you every time somebody got [mad] in the locker room, we could be talking about that after every game. We wouldn't be talking about basketball."
Even so, Unseld, and Heard, in particular, said they were concerned that someone with the team, who was in the locker room, leaked information they felt was confidential.
"With this team, people [not with the team] focus on everything but basketball," Heard said. "We're trying to focus on basketball. I'm disturbed because what we discuss in the locker room stays in the locker room. Coaches, players, whatever, those are people that are part of this team.
"I'm just [upset] about this. It takes away from what we're trying to focus on."
Wizards Notes: Rookie guard Richard Hamilton was not invited to participate in the NBA rookie game during all-star weekend, but accepted an invitation to pair with Washington Mystics forward Chamique Holdsclaw in the two-ball shooting competition.
"Things like that happen," Hamilton said. "You don't think about it until it happens. If it doesn't go your way you use it as a steppingstone."
Eight rookies were invited to play eight second-year players, who did not get to play last season because all-star weekend was canceled due to the lockout.
Hamilton, who was the seventh overall draft pick, was not the highest draft pick to be snubbed for the game. Third pick Baron Davis (Charlotte) and fifth pick Jonathan Bender (Indiana) were not invited.
Forward Elton Brand (Chicago), guard Steve Francis (Houston), guard Andre Miller (Cleveland), swingman Lamar Odom (Los Angeles Clippers) and forward Wally Szczerbiak (Minnesota) were invited, as were swingman Adrian Griffin (Boston), center Todd MacCulloch (Philadelphia) and forward James Posey (Denver).