Wizards Coach ‘Obama' Tapscott Has Winning Debut

Blatche scores 25 in victory

Ed Tapscott's previous game as a head coach came in 1993 with his daughter's youth league team.

"We won, but she complained about playing time," he said.

On Tuesday night, Tapscott won again, this time in his NBA debut with the Washington Wizards, who routed the Golden State Warriors and newcomer Jamal Crawford 124-100 to end a five-game losing streak.

And, instead of a complaint from a player, he got a presidential-level compliment.

"Now that we got 'Obama' on the sideline with us, we're going to ride with it," forward Caron Butler said. "Tap, he's light-skinned, he stands for change, he's got a law degree, he uses big words, and he's new in the district, and he's in control now, so shout out to Obama. We won tonight; he brought a lot of hope.

"And he's good with numbers, so hopefully he'll change the economy as well."

The humor was a welcome relief in a locker room full of players ticked off that their 1-10 performance to start the season had cost a popular coach his job. Eddie Jordan was fired Monday and replaced by director of player development Tapscott, and the team responded with a level of enthusiasm and hustle not seen earlier in the season.

"We just fed off the energy," forward Antawn Jamison said. "We knew we had to get this win. It's been a crazy 24 hours, and we just wanted to stop the bleeding."

The Wizards notched season highs in points, rebounds (54), matched their season high in assists (27), and forced a season-high 20 turnovers as Tapscott experimented with different lineup combinations and ran more isolation plays and less of Jordan's Princeton-style attack. Butler scored a season-high 35 points, Jamison had 25 points and 11 rebounds, and rookie center JaVale McGee added a season-high 14 points as the Wizards improved to 2-10, avoiding the worst 12-game start in franchise history.

The biggest surprise was Andray Blatche, Washington's Mr. Inconsistency, who had season highs with 25 points and 11 rebounds and also matched career highs with five blocks and five steals.

"Maybe for him the biggest key is a new voice," Jamison said, "a different voice in the locker room."

Defense was still an issue at times, but the Wizards obeyed Tapscott's demand to be more physical under the basket, as opposed to the "sieve-like, letting people go down the lane" approach he had seen in the team's previous games. After a big hack by Dominic McGuire in the lane, Tapscott turned to his bench and said, "That was a hard foul. That's what we want."

Tapscott's debut overshadowed the night's other new addition.

Crawford, traded by the New York Knicks on Friday, had a quiet evening in his first game with the Warriors. Despite only one practice with his new team, he was placed in the starting lineup by coach Don Nelson and had nine points and seven assists in 29 minutes.

"I definitely see where I can fit in," Crawford said. "Out here you can't really play passive, you have to be aggressive, and when you're aggressive, it opens it up for your teammates. I definitely need to be more aggressive moving forward."

Corey Maggette scored 17 points to lead the Warriors, who have lost three straight.

"We played an inspired team tonight," Nelson said. "They outworked us, outhustled us, outplayed us. They did everything well and we didn't do very much well at all. Pretty disappointed with the way that my team played, especially the young players that got an opportunity to play. They all played very poorly."

Tapscott hadn't been a head coach since he was working a few neighborhoods down the road at American University in 1990, but he looked right at home on an NBA bench in his dark suit, white shirt and blue tie. He warned before the game that "it's very dangerous to think of quick fixes," but he instantly energized the Wizards -- at least for one night -- and seemed to take the victory in stride as he wiped his brow while walking to the tunnel after the final horn, his NBA record an impeccable 1-0.

"It's better," he said, "than being 0-1." 

Notes: Wizards G Antonio Daniels remains sidelined with a sore right knee. ... Washington's previous season high in points was 117. ... The Warriors are 0-2 on their five-game road trip.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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