Tuesday, November 13, 2001

The Wizards, in addition to all their other basketball sins, squander too many possessions on offense.
They do not seem to understand that basketball is a game of percentages, predicated on the ability to make more good decisions than the opponent. They do not seem to understand what happens to prosperity around a bad decision.
Consider the following sequence in the second quarter of the Wizards-Sonics game on Sunday:
Courtney Alexander is leading the fastbreak, with a teammate on the left side of the floor and only Gary Payton in front of him. Alexander can pass the ball or pull up and take a 12-footer. This is elementary unless you are young and want to show your stuff.
Alexander elects to take the ball all the way to the basket, and Payton goes crashing to the floor. The lead official accepts Payton’s flop as a cue to call a player-control foul against Alexander, and the basket is disallowed.
This is how it goes if you’re a second-year player going against one of the leading players in the NBA. The benefit of the doubt goes to the established player. Rule No. 1: Don’t test the hierarchy. Rule No. 2: Take the open 12-footer or pass the ball to a teammate cutting to the basket.
If you miss the open 12-footer and the probability of that is low you should have the expectation of securing the offensive rebound. You have two players to their one, and the one, Payton, has his back to the basket.
The Wizards exhibit this startling lack of basketball aptitude a couple of times a quarter.
The Wizards nearly converted a fastbreak opportunity in the first quarter, only to have the basket disallowed after Christian Laettner grabbed the rim. The call is offensive goaltending, and the Wizards lost a chance to go up by nine points early in the game.
There also is this: Popeye Jones seemingly comes down with a compulsion to take a long hook shot at least once a game. He apparently believes in the shot. He possibly is the only one who believes in it.
Perhaps it is contagious.
Kwame Brown attempted a 22-footer from the right wing in the second half against the Sonics. That must be from the Glynn Academy playbook. With the Wizards, he probably can’t tell the difference between high school and the NBA.
Coach Doug Collins was unimpressed, summoning a replacement for Brown after the ball landed a couple of feet from the rim.
Brown is still trying to figure it out, no doubt, so let’s keep it simple for him. You are a 6-foot-11 post player, Kwame. This is a 22-footer. No.
Besides, the Wizards already have enough jump shooters. Other than Michael Jordan, no one is interested in scoring with his back to the basket.
The lack of interest is considered a plus with Jahidi White, given his disability. You can’t teach height in the NBA, and you can’t teach hands in his case.
Whenever White catches the ball, cheers are apt to follow. He has two options with the ball, pass or shoot, neither of them good. He is a mini-Shaq in body and on the free throw line. His body bears mentioning only because it explains his fourth season in the NBA.
White’s hands go with Laettner’s feet. Their body parts share the same stone.
As soon as Laettner puts the ball on the floor, the team’s supporters close their eyes and hope for the best.
The defenders in Laettner’s vicinity have the opposite reaction. Their eyes get real big just before they steal the ball.
Jordan, the one who matters the most with the Wizards, is taking mostly good shots. He just can’t find a good shooting “rhythm,” his favorite word after seven games. He has been dropping the rhythm word with such frequency that you are starting to think he is reading from a birth-control manual.
So Jordan is in a shooting slump, the Wizards are sometimes brain dead on offense, and they don’t always defend or rebound with much conviction.
“We’re going to keep working,” Collins said after the loss to the Sonics. “We’re going to keep teaching. I’m not going to give up, that’s for sure.”
Collins and Jordan left the comfort of their previous jobs to ease the aggravation on Fun Street. The city can appreciate the attempt, just not the last two losses and 2-5 record.
Have a shot of Pepto-Bismol on the city, fellows.

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