- The Washington Times - Friday, December 25, 2009

A fortuitous bruise to the left thigh of Gilbert Arenas allowed Earl Boykins to empower the shaky Wizards.

That is not fair to either Arenas or Boykins.

The former is mired in a topsy-turvy comeback after two seasons’ worth of bench duty, and the 5-foot-5 latter is with his ninth NBA team.

That is the tenuous state of the Wizards two months into the season.

Boykins is posing as the settling force of the team, the one entrusted with much of the decision-making duties in the waning minutes of a game. That is by default. And that should be a long-term concern. Elfin point guards take NBA teams nowhere.

If there is a surprising aspect to where Arenas is, it is with his decision-making capacity.

That is not connected to his misfiring legs and his time away from the game. The ability to make a high-percentage pass does not disappear with time.

Magic Johnson probably could step away from his business empire for a night and still make the proper read on the court.

That was an element of Johnson’s game that sometimes was lost amid the “Showtime” highlights of the Lakers.

Johnson had an intuitive feel for the game the moment he slipped into a Lakers’ jersey as a 19-year-old prodigy and celebrated in victory on his debut night, only to be told by the sagacious Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to calm down, that there were 81 games left.

Arenas has no natural insight into the game, no inclination to avoid the low-percentage fullcourt pass or the low-velocity pass to the wing, where it sometimes is picked off by a defender defending the passing lane.

Arenas still has not adapted to his scaled-down physical state either.

It just so happens he was injured after crashing into a planted Ersan Ilyasova on a drive to the basket. That resulted in the bruise to the thigh, a player-control foul and his seventh turnover, all because of a split-second misinterpretation of the obstacles on the court.

That, of course, has prompted coach Flip Saunders to deploy Boykins as his closer. It may not be the ideal move - it was not as if Boykins was on anyone’s mind in the giddy days of the preseason - but it seems to be the most reliable course at his disposal.

Randy Foye, who is gritty enough, sometimes comes down with an itchy trigger finger from the perimeter. DeShawn Stevenson is stuck in a protracted shooting slump, his body betraying him.

The Wizards are showing a modicum of fight in winning three of their last four games.

Not that the vanquished - Warriors, 76ers and Bucks - are competent teams. But two of the victories came on the road, and the exercise in Milwaukee evolved as one to lose after the Wizards squandered what was a comfortable lead early in the fourth quarter.

The firm finish crystallizes the quandary that Saunders wrestles with on a game-to-game basis.

If Arenas had been playing alongside Boykins down the stretch and looking to impose his will on the proceedings, would the Wizards have been as convincing as they were in settling the issue?

That is the ever-tricky dynamic before Saunders, waiting to see more of the explosive Arenas who emerged at Golden State.

As it is, the Wizards are hearing and reading the same trade rumors as everyone else.

Ernie Grunfeld, as is his wont, is not telling secrets, just accepting calls from those general managers who look at the standings and sense a potential maneuver.

You just never know when the desperate might peddle a Pau Gasol for what amounts to nothing.

Saunders says he expected the Wizards to be a couple of games above .500 at this point in the season.

That was before Antawn Jamison missed the first nine games of the season and Caron Butler struggled to find his place in a new offense. That was before Foye and Mike Miller suffered injuries.

It all adds up to a 10-17 record and a season in peril.

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