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It’s time to focus on Fun Street

- The Washington Times - Monday, January 7, 2008

The All-Star question of Caron Butler and Antawn Jamison is impertinent.

It should not be a question in either case, as the two forwards demonstrated yet again in Tony Cheng's neighborhood yesterday.

Butler filled the stat sheet in his typically convincing fashion, and Jamison registered his 21st double-double of the season as the Wizards defeated the Maryland-led Sonics 108-86.

Eddie Jordan, the maestro who has kept the team afloat amid a glut of injuries, connects the relevancy of the Wizards to Butler and Jamison.

"They have carried us to a winning record," Jordan said. "Their numbers speak for themselves. What people don't see is their leadership in the locker room."

Jamison was exercising his leadership role in front of his dressing stall, talking of the changes ahead that possibly will expedite the maturity of Andray Blatche, Nick Young and Dominic McGuire.

"Right now, as a group, our young guys have too many distractions," Jamison said. "We need our bench. We can ill afford to let this continue."

Jamison recalled the example John Starks set after he broke into the NBA with Golden State in the 1998-99 season.

Starks would show up to the arena five hours before the opening tip to lift weights and practice his shooting.

That sense of professionalism has been found wanting in the two rookies and Blatche, the Chipotle Burrito Dash leader.

Their inconsistencies have contributed to Jordan's annoyance after he resorts to what is becoming the prevent-victory bench in the second quarter.

"Sometimes our young fellows don't understand what it takes to be successful in this league," Jamison said. "Caron and I, we're going to be mentoring them."

Butler pointed to Young's stall across the locker room and announced that it would be moved to his vicinity, all the better to bend the rookie's ear and show the way.

"Our bench can give us a lot," Butler said. "But they have to mature."

The ones in need of maturing have to work the same number of hours as Butler and Jamison, whether on the practice court or in the weight room.

The work is hardly for naught. That is why Butler and Jamison are in position to make their second appearance each in the All-Star Game. It also is why the Wizards have a 17-15 record in the absence of Gilbert Arenas, whose recent ramblings indicate he will return in March, next March or sometime before his 30th birthday.

That would put him on pace with Oleksiy Pecherov, who has been out two to four weeks the last 2½ months.

Butler and Jamison could point to the wayward youth of the Sonics, if anyone in their target audience needs convincing that misdirected talent is a waste.

The Sonics put up a competitive fight for 36 minutes before capitulating to their turnovers and poor shot selection in the fourth quarter.

"We wanted to make the homecoming difficult for their young guys," Butler said, referring to the Maryland-spawned group of Kevin Durant, Jeff Green, Delonte West, Chris Wilcox and Damien Wilkins.

Butler finished with 33 points, five assists, four steals and four rebounds, Jamison 21 points and 12 rebounds.

Those two alone can overwhelm the lowly of the NBA. Yet if the Wizards want to advance to the second tier of NBA teams — the Magic, Lakers, Nuggets and Trail Blazers — it just can't be left to Butler and Jamison with consistent contributions from Brendan Haywood, Antonio Daniels and DeShawn Stevenson.

The Wizards need the support system of the bench, which means less giggling from their youngsters and more recognition that theirs is a Darwinian business.

It is easy being the Chipotle Burrito Dash leader. It is a lot harder to devote yourself to the weight room and gymnasium, especially if you can be giggling with your friends somewhere else.

Butler and Jamison cannot do it all, although they certainly are making the effort, both on the court and in the locker room.

Both All-Star worthies will be teaching a course in the locker room this week, titled: "How to be a Professional."