- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 29, 2000

So Juwan Howard is unhappy that fans are booing him and the Wizards at MCI Center?
Poor baby. Literally.
Or, putting it another way, aww.
Grow up, kid.
What does he expect? Over his six-plus seasons, the Bullets/Wizards have a record of 197-278 through last night, meaning they've lost almost 60 percent of their games. And although I imagine Howard doesn't care about history not many young people do the franchise has had exactly five seasons in the past 21 when it wasn't a loser
Playoffs, did somebody mention playoffs? Since Ronald Reagan's second term, the team has enjoyed, if that's the word, exactly three postseason games. Lost 'em all, too, to the Chicago Bulls in 1997.
After that abbreviated series, Michael Jordan called Washington the team of the future. Obviously, that was a mistake. He probably meant to say the scream of the future.
Nobody blames Howard alone for the Wizards' flops, but he's the biggest part. Four years ago, he signed a seven-year contract for $105 million, which is superstar pay for a solid player who isn't near being a superstar (career averages: 18.3 points, 7.5 rebounds). No way can he carry a team, particularly one as athletically challenged as this. You might as well expect the franchise to ride into the playoffs on the back of those two little canine mascots who used to run around the floor at Capital Centre during timeouts.
(Come to think of it, has an NBA team ever had more appropriate mascots?)
Howard says he can't think of another player being jeered as consistently by his hometown spectators. Juwan doesn't have a clue here either. He's lucky that only boos are raining down instead of more solid objects.
I'm sure Howard, as a privileged athlete of long standing, has no idea what tickets cost $5 or $10, maybe? He doesn't understand that an average fan could blow a car payment taking the family to MCI. Personally, I'm all in favor of disgruntled customers venting their spleen in any legal manner they desire.
And let's face it: The Wizards' play in most recent seasons is bad enough to make even Robin Ficker boo.
Let's say it costs a parent $200 to take the kids to a game, and pretty soon the Wiz are trailing by 30 and loafing up and down the court.
Boos? That's enough to drive some people to booze.
Then there's Juwan's $105 million deal, a figure none us can comprehend. For an average salary of $15 million, most human beings would jump through hoops instead of merely chucking basketballs at them. That kind of dough demands two things of Howard: (1) that he be a superb player every night and (2) that he accept the responsibility of being a leader on and off the court.
Instead this 27-year-old whines like a baby whose bottle is late and offers the same old rationalizations for failure: "We need to execute, and we just didn't." … "Give [the other team] credit; they wanted it more." … "I'm sick and tired of losing."
He's sick and tired?
In fairness, Howard is only one of three Wizards, along with Rod Strickland and Mitch Richmond, whose megabuck contracts leave the club with no options for improving the team under the salary cap. Example: Dikembe Mutombo, a perfectly serviceable center, is said to want out of Atlanta and just might like the idea of returning to D.C., where he played at Georgetown. But there's no way, even if the Wizards wanted him. They couldn't fit Muggsy Bogues under the cap, much less an economic hulk like Mutombo.
Of course, there is a way for Howard to end the booing and, in fact, become an instant hero to fans everywhere.
Give back some of the money.
Juwan could request a meeting with Abe Pollin, Ted Leonsis, Susan O'Malley, Wes Unseld and Michael Jordan. When everyone is comfortably seated, he could say something like, "I know I'm not worth all that much, and I want to play on a championship team here before I'm through. So I have instructed my agent, David Falk, to return, say, $20 million to the club so it will have more room under the salary cap to sign the players we need oops, sorry, David just fainted. Anybody got any smelling salts?"
This scenario is about as likely as Al Gore telling his lawyers to cease and desist, but stranger things have happened I think.
One of these days, enough fans will start boycotting teams at the turnstiles and on TV to make owners and athletes realize how ludicrous the money game has become in all pro sports. Until then, let's hear those hoots, folks, when our spoiled millionaire jocks don't produce while playing children's games.
It has to happen, though there's no guarantee we'll be around to see it. Meanwhile, Juwan Howard, you and your fellow infants should grow up.

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