- The Washington Times - Friday, January 6, 2006

To the charge of being hopelessly inert on defense, the Wizards plead guilty.

Their lack of interest on defense is a stunning inclination that threatens to place them in the grim company of the Hawks, Knicks and Raptors.

No one expected the Wizards to be defensively imposing this season. But no one expected them to be waving a green flag in front of opponents either.

The incredible shrinking Brendan Haywood compares the team’s defense to Swiss cheese, and that perhaps is being unkind to the Swiss, who at least try to stay neutral.

There is nothing neutral about the stink emanating from the Wizards. The odor carries the pungent blast of the Blue Plains Wastewater Treatment Plant.

The Wizards are either lacking a heart or suffer from attention deficit disorder, so feeble is their commitment on defense.

Their 123-point gift to the offensively challenged Rockets was an embarrassment that should have resulted in a money-back offer to the 14,883 victims who came to boo Juwan Howard, only to watch the Dumbo-eared one dump 24 points on his former team.

The defensive guilt of the Wizards is not collective. You would have to grade the film to pick out the dogs from those with a spine.

The incredible shrinking Haywood is probably on the dog list, along with the Poet, considering how coach Eddie Jordan has shortened their leashes.

As good-natured as the Wizards are off the court, they are obligated to start showing a trace of disgust on it. Getting your rumps handed to you by Rafer Alston cannot be enjoyable.

Even Dikembe Mutombo was able to brush off the cobwebs and dust from his fossilized form and collect 11 rebounds and four points in nearly 24 minutes against the Wizards.

It was not funny to see the support-hose candidate resort to the finger wag after blocking a shot.

Yet the incredible shrinking Haywood has a tendency to giggle at inappropriate moments, whether it is late in the game of a spanking in Indianapolis or following a shellacking on Fun Street.

His humor passes over the steam rising from the head of Gilbert Arenas.

There is a difference between being defensively deficient and defensively derelict. The Wizards have made the transition to the latter.

The roll-over proclivities of the Wizards on defense invite all to the basket, including blue-haired grandmothers who have lost a few steps.

The Wizards might as well play in tuxedos. They have come to be the boutonniere-wearing ushers who escort their opponents to the basket.

The Wizards are saddled with two antithetical truths. They are as joyous on offense as they are joyless on defense. The latter is determining their fate.

If they have an appreciation of the game, their coaching staff and a city that was theirs last season, they have a funny way of showing it.

They don’t get mad. They just get lost in their defensive rotations.

The time has come for the Wizards to buck up. If not, the season soon will be lost.

This is their month to become relevant, so favorable is the schedule.

Yet if the Wizards cannot summarily dispatch the Yao Ming-less Rockets, who typically play down to the ghoulish facade of Jeff Van Ankle Weight, no portion of the schedule is inviting.

The Wizards have lacked the resilience that defined them last season. They absorbed a number of injuries and stood firm in a number of close games last season. Other than the injury to Jarvis Hayes, the Wizards have been mostly healthy and mostly weak-kneed.

The evidence is starting to accumulate that this team lacks the temperament and grit to push back.

Opponents come into Tony Cheng’s neighborhood knowing they will be served a full plate of dunks, open 3-pointers and second-chance opportunities, and the Wizards do not even ask to be patted on their heads and scratched on their bellies in return.

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