Wizards Put Spell On Hawks


If the refs are going to call this many fouls every game, everybody is going to get to play.

The Washington Wizards used all 12 of their players, and 11 played at least a dozen minutes Tuesday night in a season-opening game that featured 52 fouls. Washington's reserves outscored Atlanta's bench 45-19, and that was the difference in the Wizards' 94-87 victory.

"This is first time I've actually seen the officials call the game the way the commissioner wanted them to call it," said Gar Heard, victorious in his Washington coaching debut. "If you touch a guy, it's a foul. They did that the first half. You've have to have 12 guys this year. You can't play with six, seven guys anymore."

So, as it turns out, all those injuries to the Wizards starters during training camp actually paid off. Backups Gerard King (11 points), Chris Whitney (10) and rookie Richard Hamilton (10) got loads of playing time in exhibition games while the first-teamers were sidelined.

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  • "The bench won the game," Heard said. "These guys played the whole preseason, and they were ready to play."

    Juwan Howard led Washington with 21 points.

    Each team was called for 15 first-half fouls including seven offensive fouls against the Hawks as officials Tommy Nunez, Ron Olesiak and Rodney Mott enforced the league's new crackdown on contact, designed to improve the flow of the game.

    The slightest of touches were called at times, and Atlanta's Alan Henderson drew a technical during one protest. All three point guards on the Hawks roster had three fouls at halftime. Atlanta finished with 22 fouls; the Wizards had 30.

    "I really don't like it," Atlanta center Dikembe Mutombo said. "If I have to speak against it all season long, I will. It's just terrible. I don't know what made this institution go and change the game the way they did. ... There's no movement no more. They've taken all the physical part of the game away."

    "We are playing European style. I don't know if the fans are happy with a whistle blowing every two seconds."

    There was one stretch when the whistles were silent not a foul was called during the first 6@1/2 minutes of the second half and that was when the Wizards found a flow and built a 13-point lead.

    The Hawks missed their first four shots of the half and then committed two turnovers, allowing Washington to put together a 6-0 run to go up 60-47.

    Down the stretch, the Wizards held on despite a 3-for-13 night from Mitch Richmond, who fouled out with 3:58 to play.

    "We've just got to adjust, and I definitely have got to be the one that's got to adjust," Richmond said. "I got a couple of little cheap fouls, but that's what they're calling, cheap fouls."

    The Hawks overhauled their roster during the offseason seven of their 12 active players are new to the club but returning second-year forward Roshown McLeod was the only player who had any rhythm.

    McLeod scored 14 of his career-high 22 points in the first quarter, including a 50-footer at the buzzer. His previous high was 16.

    And, while the Wizards emptied their bench, the Hawks didn't have a full complement of players because Isaiah Rider left the team Monday following the death of his grandfather. Rider will rejoin the team for practice Wednesday.

    Mutombo had 12 points and 12 rebounds for the Hawks. Rod Strickland, though not in his best playing shape because of his recent trial on drunk-driving charges, had 12 points and 10 assists for the Wizards.

    But the only thing the Hawks wanted to talk about was their foul mood.

    "I think instead of speeding the game up, it's slowing it down," McLeod said. "One thing it's going to do is increase the points per game, but it's going to be a free-throw contest."

    Notes

  • Heard promised that they Wizards would be an up-tempo team, but the Hawks had a 14-6 advantage in fastbreak points.
  • Attendance was 16,038, well short of a sellout in the 20,674-seat MCI Center.
  • Richmond fouled out only once in his last two seasons.

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