- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 31, 2011

Roger Mason Jr. was the consummate professional in the Wizards locker room after the team’s 102-81 loss to Milwaukee on Friday. In truth, Mason was angry and understandably so after a series of mistakes left his name omitted from the team’s roster and ineligible to play in the game.

The guard handled the debacle like a seasoned veteran and used it as a teaching moment for his young teammates, encouraging them to never take one moment of their playing time for granted.

“I don’t think it [Mason’s ineligibility] put us in a funk, but I think it put him in a funk,” said forward Rashard Lewis. “I could see it in his eyes. He was extremely hot about it. He was upset, but at the same time, he was talking to the guys at halftime, talking to us after the game and trying to keep everybody motivated.”

Lewis was then informed that the two points Mason scored were credited to him.

“That’s even better,” Lewis joked. “No, but it was crazy. He [Mason] was getting ready to get a chance to play and show that he can help this team because he’s a knock-down jump shooter. He can spread the floor, he can open it up.”

Mason played less than eight minutes in the team’s first two losses, but was penciled in for a lot more playing time against the Bucks. Lewis, a 13-year veteran, was still shaking his head after the game.

“Never,” Lewis said. “First time I’ve ever even seen it, ever heard it. I didn’t even know it was a rule. But for a guy that’s dressed up being left off the roster, first time I’ve ever heard of it. It’s crazy, and we got a technical.”

But the Wizards don’t have a lot of time to dwell on the inexplicable, from blowing a 21-point lead in their home-opening loss to the Nets to the Mason debacle on the road in Milwaukee. Their next three opponents — Boston, Orlando and New York — were all playoff teams last season and will look to feast upon a team like the Wizards.

“We got the Celtics two times back-to-back, and they started off worse, so you know they’re going to come out and get the game they think they should get,” point guard John Wall said. “Everybody’s targeting us, so we got to go to Orlando and play another tough team. Even dealing with all the trade rumors about Dwight [Howard], they’re still playing tough basketball.”

Guard Jordan Crawford had a breakthrough scoring night, leading all scorers with 24, but said he would have preferred a win.

“We got to find a way to win, that’s the bottom line,” Crawford said. “I just made shots [against the Bucks], but it’s the same result. We still lost so it ain’t really no difference. I’m not trying to lose. It don’t matter if I have 50. When you’re losing, you become the joke of the league. We [are] 0-and-three. All they talk about is how we keep losing. It’s not better when you score more.”

Crawford identified one of the Wizards’ problems, but questions remain as to how to fix them.

“We are young, and I think we force it sometimes when we get down,” Crawford said. “We try to do it on our own, which I try to do all the time. Sometimes, I just want to come back as quick as possible.

“[Coach] Flip [Saunders] keeps beating it our head that we got to stop doing that. I think we’re learning by how we [are] getting drilled each game.”

Forward Andray Blatche also knows he’s started off the season in what he describes as “an offensive funk”, but vows to work hard to get out of it.

However, the losing is already taking it’s toll.

“It’s still early,” Blatche said,” but when you start off losing, a lot of people start to get their hopes down and get down on us. It feels like we [have] been playing 40 games already. We just got to stick together in times like this.

“You got to go home, you got to think about it, watch film, you got to hurt. We can’t continue to have the same excuse about being a young team, because if we have that excuse all season, we’ll find ourselves in the same situation as last season,”

Guard Nick Young compared the team to a family dealing with adversity.

“You don’t give up, you stay out there and keep going,” Young said. “You don’t want to get used to losing, and it’s tough, but you got to stick together. You can’t have somebody mad every night. We got to come together as a family, really.

“We had a good talk after the game. We got on each other. Even when things are not going your way, you got to  stick with it for the team.”

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