- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 10, 2005

MIAMI. — I have it from impeccable sources — the various newspapers in South Florida — that the Heat-Wizards series is done, finished, so over that the Wizards might as well fuel up their jet and head back to Fun Street.

So I plan to soak up the rays at poolside today in anticipation of what promises to be an intriguing cocktail hour at the Marriott Biscayne Bay tonight instead of the purported Game 2 between the Wizards and Heat. You just cannot be certain the Wizards will bother to show up to the soulless arena on Biscayne Boulevard, judging from what has been written in these parts.

Even the silicone-packing, leathery-skin crowd is liable to stay away in droves, worn out from another day of dancing with melanoma on South Beach.

The question of the team’s itinerary was put to Michael Ruffin, the erstwhile Academic All-American from Tulsa who was sitting on a courtside seat following practice yesterday.

Are the Wizards going to blow off Game 2 and return to Washington, as implied?

Ruffin laughed.

“We plan to be here,” he said. “We’re going to come ready to work.”

The Wizards have every reason to be somewhat sensitive to the media-induced spin that trivializes their feel-good season. They improved by 20 games this season despite injuries to essential personnel and eliminated the Bulls in six games in the first round of the playoffs. And yet they have been judged to be a dumb team, an undisciplined team and a selfish team, and certainly irrelevant around the Heat.

The charges have rankled Wizards coach Eddie Jordan, if only because he knows how much plotting, sweat and stomach-churning effort have gone into the season.

“It has been amazing the whole playoffs to see how things are perceived, whether it’s us not being a hard-working team or one lacking in discipline,” he said. “But that’s life.”

You take the first open shot in an offensive set, and you go down as an unthinking team. You milk every second on the 24-second shot clock, and you go down as a boring team.

You have Shaquille O’Neal in the lineup, and it takes a considerable amount of editorial restraint not to be running the Heat-Pistons matchups in the sports pages after Game 1 of the Heat-Wizards series.

“It is only one game,” Jordan said, not unlike a teacher explaining to the overgrown tots encircling him that one plus one equals two.

The Wizards dropped the first two games of their series with the Bulls before winning the next four. Not that anyone is apt to compare Antonio Davis to O’Neal or Kirk Hinrich to Dwyane Wade.

“I thought we competed [in Game 1],” Jordan said. “It was a two-point game at the half. They were well-rested, and I think that helped them in the end.”

Adjustments?

“Yeah — make shots,” Jordan said.

The Wizards have lost nine games in a row to the Heat, whatever that means given how much the personnel of both teams has changed the last two seasons. Yet it is the number being dropped on the Wizards at the moment.

“Then you are going to have to beat us 10 times in a row, 11 and 12 times in a row because we are going to keep coming,” Gilbert Arenas said.

The two franchises undoubtedly are in different stages of their postseason development.

This is the opening to the Heat’s championship window, two seasons maximum before O’Neal succumbs further to the ravages of time and Christian Laettner is no longer able to dunk in his cement shoes.

The Wizards merely are cutting their playoff teeth, their best seasons two or three years away.

No explanations or apologies are necessary on their end, regardless of how this series unfolds.

The brooms are not even out here. That would take effort, plus a recognition of the Wizards being in the series.

South Florida to the Wizards: Who?

Yawn.

Time to order a drink with a paper umbrella sticking out of it.

Make it a double after the Pistons hit the tarmac here.

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