- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 15, 2000

The NBA has promised to hold a high-level game in Tony Cheng's neighborhood this season.

They call this the NBA All-Star Game, which, obviously, leaves the Wizards out of it.

They should be paying coach Leonard Hamilton by the headache. If so, he could retire a wealthy man by the All-Star break.

Michael Jordan said the Wizards would make the playoffs this season. That must mean he is planning to come out of retirement.

The Wizards are off to a 2-6 start. This is not alarming. This is standard. The Wizards are only a threat to stay ahead of the Bulls and Hawks, the two worst teams in the Eastern Conference.

As host of the NBA All-Star Game, the Wizards were permitted to make two selections on the ballot earlier this week, no ifs, ands or chads about it.

Rod Strickland voted for himself and Mitch Richmond. That may merit a recount, if not a rhyme from the former Shadow (Jesse Jackson).

Recounts. Hand counts. Toe counts. Nose counts.

Counting ballots has become America's favorite pastime.

Reading minds is second.

The latter is not too terribly difficult with the Wizards. They have fallen and can't get up.

For now, they are obligated to pretend that they can get this thing right. They have 74 games to go. You can take that as a warning.

The Wizards are stuck between an aging backcourt and a hard salary cap. Relief is another season away, if then.

Hamilton resurrected a college program at Miami, Fla. That is playtime compared to this assignment.

He should not take this view as a commentary on his abilities. He has the city's sympathy.

Chris Webber, who could have owned Fun Street at one time, becomes a free agent next offseason. Latrell Sprewell already has been warned not to tamper with his old buddy's head.

Webber would be closer to the woman from Connecticut if he landed with the Knicks. It was the woman from Connecticut who contributed to Webber's departure from Washington.

One way or another, it will work out for Webber. It usually does for those players who score and rebound in bunches. They leave their messes behind and play to cheers in their next locality.

Webber is on pace to earn a weekend trip to Washington. At least he has Juwan Howard's All-Star vote on it.

So hide the marijuana.

A warm welcome probably is out of the question. Webber's fingerprints remain on this paralyzed franchise.

The NBA appears happy to provide Washington with a three-day commercial break in early February. The feeling is mutual.

By then, not even the Wizards can spin their date with oblivion. By then, the tedium will be pronounced.

Other cities embrace the NBA season, while Washington merely tries to cope with what passes as an NBA season. Two Advil a day hold the missed shots and turnovers at bay.

David Stern, who decided not to fight Dennis Rodman in the nude last season, is coming to the right place. If the All-Star Game is a form of NBA-Aid, Washington fits the criteria.

Stern is looking to impose the NBA on the world. He could start small, with Florida. His ballot system, as flawed as it is, works better than Florida's.

No one claims ignorance at the NBA ballot box. That possibly is because the living dead rarely feel an urge to pick up an NBA ballot.

Not that all the players agree with the voting results. They just don't bother the courts with it, only each other, often by dunking on the undeserved person's head.

Fortunately, most of the NBA voters have mustard stains on their shirts, not drool. They have cell phones sticking in their ears, not hearing aids.

If the NBA's All-Star balloting came down to Palm Beach County, Greg Ostertag would be in the starting lineup instead of Shaquille O'Neal.

That would be a problem, although not a reason to recount the ballots by osmosis, psychic hot lines and good guesses.

O'Neal just might feel compelled to slap around Ostertag again.

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