Originally created 11/05/04

Wizards foil Bobcats' season opening plans



CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Primoz Brezec fought through a double team, spun to his left and sank a layup for a 2-0 lead.

With that, the NBA was back in Charlotte after a two-year absence.

The Bobcats opened their first season Thursday night with a 103-96 loss to the Washington Wizards, failing to become the third consecutive expansion team to win its NBA debut.

Replacing the Hornets after they moved to New Orleans in 2002, the Bobcats are expected to struggle mightily this season. Still, they were in this one late as they tried to match Vancouver and Toronto (1995) as inaugural game winners.

Charlotte fell short because of youth and inexperience midway through the fourth quarter.

The game was tied at 85 when turnovers and poor shot selection allowed the Wizards to go on a game-deciding 9-0 run.

Melvin Ely lost the ball while dribbling, and Eddie House foolishly fouled Juan Dixon as he made a Washington layup. It was a three-point swing after Dixon's free throw, and the Bobcats appeared to unravel after that.

House missed a 3-pointer and Steve Smith missed consecutive shots as the Wizards built a 94-85 lead with 4:14 to play.

Charlotte still had chances, sending Tamar Slay to the line trailing 96-90, but Slay missed both free throws and the Bobcats couldn't make a basket after Emeka Okafor battled for the rebound.

Unlike the Hornets' first game in 1988, when they received a standing ovation after a 40-point loss, most of the sellout crowd of 23,319 was long gone by the end. Even NBA commissioner David Stern filed out before the final buzzer. It left one seemingly drunk fan standing alone, clapping loudly as he shouted, "OK, Bobcats, you rule!"

Antawn Jamison, a Charlotte native, led Washington with 24 points. Gilbert Arenas added 19, Jarvis Hayes had 17, Juan Dixon 15 and Larry Hughes scored 14.

Okafor, the No. 2 overall pick in the NBA Draft, led Charlotte with 19 points and 10 rebounds. Brezec and Smith scored 15 each, Gerald Wallace had 11 and Jason Kapono and Ely had 10 apiece.

CURRY HOPES TO PLAY: In New York, free agent Michael Curry, a former Glenn Hills standout, is optimistic he'll be playing in the NBA this season and has no plans to step down as president of the players' union.

The 36-year-old forward, who appeared in 70 games for the Toronto Raptors last season, has been taking part in negotiations between the union and the league on a new collective bargaining agreement.

Players association bylaws state the union president must be an active player, but there is no language defining active.

"It's not an issue," said Curry, who replaced Patrick Ewing as president of the players' union in 2001. "I'm waiting for the right situation with the right team, and I'll let it take its course.

Curry, who has played for six NBA teams over a 10-year career in which he never averaged more than 6.6 points, said he turned down offers over the summer from teams offering only a partially guaranteed salary. He would not identify them, nor would he state a preference for where he would like to play.

"I'm going to sign eventually, but I'm not eager to go to a bad team," Curry said Wednesday in a telephone interview from his home in Atlanta. "I'm a 36-year-old role player. It's not like that's a hot commodity."

During the preseason, union vice president Shaquille O'Neal, who replaced Alonzo Mourning on the union's executive council, said he supported Curry remaining in the post of union president despite not having a contract for the upcoming season.

There is precedent for members of the union's executive committee remaining in their posts past the end of their playing careers, including Greg Anthony serving as first vice president two seasons ago, but there is no such precedent for a union president.

"Guys are happy and content with the service he's provided," union director Billy Hunter said.

Curry, who has one year remaining on his four-year term, was a member of the players' negotiating committee that agreed to a seven-year collective bargaining agreement with NBA owners in 1999, ending a lockout that forced the cancellation of the three months of the 1998-99 season.

NETS: New Jersey coach Lawrence Frank has signed a four-year, $10 million contract extension.

The deal was announced by the team Thursday, about 12 hours after the worst opening-night loss in Nets' history, 100-77 to Shaquille O'Neal and the Miami Heat.

Frank, who took over the Nets in midseason last year after Byron Scott was fired and promptly won a record 13 straight games, signed the deal Wednesday. He negotiated it himself with help from advisers.

"I feel very comfortable with Lawrence as the coach," Nets president Rod Thorn said. "Lawrence will coach our team as well as it can be coached, I don't have any problems with that."

HAWKS: Atlanta center Jason Collier will miss at least two games because of severe bronchitis.

Collier played only five minutes Wednesday night in Atlanta's season opener, a 112-82 loss at Phoenix. He missed all four of his shots.

The team said Collier was returning to Atlanta and would miss the final two games of a West Coast road trip. He will be examined by team doctors and get plenty of rest, hoping to recover in time for the Hawks' home opener Tuesday.

Collier was signed by the Hawks in March and is one of only two holdovers from last year's team.