Washington Wizards point guard Tyronn Lue said he did not intend to minimize the seriousness of the likely military conflict with Iraq with remarks he made Monday in which he likened war with sports competition.

"I support the troops," Lue said yesterday. "We're going to be praying for their families and friends. We're very supportive of the war, the whole NBA is supportive of our troops."

Lue came under fire on Monday when he answered a question about his thoughts on the Iraq conflict: "We also have a war we have to fight, too," Lue said. "The Washington Wizards are trying to make the playoffs. . . . It's pretty much the same thing."

In addition to media criticism, fans called the Wizards' offices to express their anger. Lue said he does not plan to answer any more questions from the media about anything other than sports.

On the court, Lue said the separated left shoulder that forced him to miss six games has not gotten much better but it has not hindered him much.

Tar Heels Reunion

Former University of North Carolina coaches Dean Smith and Bill Guthridge attended last night's Wizards game against the visiting Detroit Pistons to watch former players Michael Jordan, Jerry Stackhouse and Brendan Haywood.

Smith, who won his first NCAA championship when Jordan led the Tar Heels past Georgetown, said he wanted to see Jordan play live at least one more time before he retires at the end of the season. . . .

Wizards Coach Doug Collins said the team has not heard much from injured center Etan Thomas, who recently had surgery to repair a fractured left eye socket. "The understanding that I had was he was told to lay low and not do to much moving around," Collins said.

After Thomas was placed on the injured list Feb. 26, it was projected that he could begin some basketball-related drills before the end of the season. However, based on the severity of the injury, suffered when he was inadvertently elbowed by New Jersey's Richard Jefferson, plus the loss of conditioning, the Wizards do not expect Thomas to be able to contribute for the rest of the season.

Staff writer Rachel Nichols contributed to this report