Whether Washington Wizards guard Michael Jordan's minutes or season-long status as a reserve change after he suggested they might Saturday following Washington's 85-74 loss to previously winless Memphis remains to be seen.
However, there were plenty of opinions as to what is wrong with the reeling Wizards (6-7, losers of three straight) and what needs to be fixed as they enter an unforgiving stretch in their schedule that features the surging Indiana Pacers twice, Philadelphia, Milwaukee and Orlando.
The Wizards had the day off yesterday and Jordan and Coach Doug Collins could not be reached.
"We need to suck it up and look at ourselves," forward Charles Oakley said. "We need everybody, every night. We've got to focus on what we need to do. We can't have any mental lapses on the court. Everybody's got to step up and be accountable. We need to stop using our youth as an excuse."
In suggesting that he might need to play a bigger role -- Collins has tried to keep Jordan's minutes to roughly 30 a game so he can physically endure the entire season -- Jordan said some of the team's younger players need to "start to play to their capabilities."
He did not name any of his teammates.
Second-year forward Kwame Brown had a solid game (14 points, 8 rebounds, 1 blocked shot) against Memphis a day after scoring just two points against Houston. Center Brendan Haywood, though, has scored just six points and grabbed nine rebounds over the last two games. Collins played Haywood just 14 minutes against the Grizzlies, opting to use Oakley (season-high 27 minutes) instead.
Before the Grizzlies game, Collins said the team's younger players "don't take hard fouls." He even pined for injured center Jahidi White, a burly bruiser who is not expected back before the end of this year because he's recovering from offseason knee surgery.
"Jahidi brings a toughness and power that we need," Collins said. "He's a guy who brings a little fear on our front line. We miss that toughness."
Though some of the young players have been inconsistent, especially when Washington has sputtered in the second half, the lineup is made up mainly of veterans, including Jordan and guard Jerry Stackhouse.
"As talented as we are on paper, we're not talented when we're out there on that basketball court," Jordan said after the Memphis loss.
Added Stackhouse: "We're not on the same page right now offensively and defensively. We play well at times but we haven't put a consistent effort since, probably the [Nov. 8] Lakers game. We're doing good things in certain areas on different nights. We've got to try to put it all together and do all those good things in all the areas on the same night. That's how we're going to get out of this."
For much of the season, the Wizards have struggled when opponents play non-traditional, man-to-man defenses. That is one area that must be addressed as their repeated failures may prompt opponents to trap them, play a zone, or use some other type of hybrid defense.
The Rockets and the Grizzlies took Washington out of its offense with zone defenses. Instead of quickly moving the ball and allowing passing lanes to develop or attacking gaps left by late-rotating defenders, the Wizards fired up outside shots without a second thought. In those games, Washington took 30 three-pointers and made 12. Stackhouse, a slasher, took 15 of those long-range shots, making five. He missed all eight attempts against the Grizzlies.
The offshoot of putting up so many outside shots has been a mere 18 free throws in those two games. Stackhouse, one of the league leaders getting to the foul line, has taken just six in that span. Jordan took just two. Their five main big men took just nine foul shots.
"One of the keys to our team is getting to the free throw line," Collins said. "When we take shots from the outside, it takes away from the strength of our team."
Wizards Note: Starting point guard Larry Hughes is still listed as day-to-day after straining his right wrist against the Grizzlies.