- The Washington Times - Friday, December 13, 2002

The Wizards are looking to recover from their worst performance since Doug Collins became coach and Michael Jordan came out of retirement before last season.
That is a somewhat modest goal on one level, assuming the Wizards play with a trace of effort against the Nets tonight.
The team's lack of energy and resolve against the Trail Blazers in the last game was pronounced.
The Trail Blazers, a k a the Jail Blazers, have what is euphemistically known around the NBA as issues. They have Cheech and Chong issues. They have domestic abuse issues. They have the interminable issue of Rasheed Wallace, a bundle of nonsense who has become a synonym for misunderstood idiot.
The Blazers, in other words, are a mess, as they usually are, which made their dunk-happy appearance on Fun Street all the more galling.
It was the second of a five-game road trip for the Blazers, while the Wizards were supposedly a well-rested team following their giveaway attempt against the Knicks last weekend. As an added attraction, it was the first meeting between Jordan and Scottie Pippen since their championship seasons in Chicago.
You couldn't tell any of this by the actions of the hosts. The Blazers had a good old time going to the basket. They were the hungry team, possibly because of a severe case of the munchies. They were laughing it up, smiling, feeling oh-so-good. Wallace even made it through the game without throwing a towel in the face of Arvydas Sabonis, who needed a season away from the NBA the last time Wallace threw a towel in his face.
Clowns will be clowns, as you know, so it was not surprising to see the clowns mess up a last-second inbounds play the next night en route to a one-point loss to the Nets. That is what clowns do if you treat them with a sense of purpose.
The Wizards, obviously, are still trying to develop that sense of professionalism after 21 games. They don't know who they are, except a disappointing 9-12 team that is liable to fall to 9-13 after playing the Nets. A loss would put the Wizards one game behind the 37-45 unit last season after 22 games. That is not acceptable, considering the personnel, although it is more acceptable than the team's putrid no-show in the last game.
Collins and Jordan have sounded the right note since the embarrassment, expressing money-back sympathy for the victims who attended the rollover drill. The players also should consider donating 1/82nd of their salaries to Abe Pollin's favorite charity. If you are not going to work for your money, you might as well put it to some greater good.
Jordan did try to rally his teammates in the Portland game with some forceful language during an early timeout. Unfortunately, a few appeared to take that as a cue to descend into the deep sleep portion of their slumber party.
A loss in Tony Cheng's neighborhood is hardly novel. Washington is accustomed to that. But no effort, no perspiration, no nothing by the home team? Please. Do something. Put a body on someone. Rustle up some hair dye and work it into the birthmark on top of Wallace's head. That skunk-like spot on Wallace's head is so annoying, not unlike when he is armed with a towel or when he is motoring down the highway with Damon Stoudamire.
By the way, why is all that smoke seeping from their vehicle? Is the engine on fire? Or are they instruments of the cannabis-for-medicinal-purposes lobby?
Anyway, the Wizards are not apt to find a remedy against the Nets, a team so restored to prominence that it also has restored the 76ers with two of its leftovers, Keith Van Horn and Todd MacCulloch. The Wizards already have lost once to the Nets this season, by eight points at home, and played abysmally around the ghost of Jimmy Hoffa last season, notably in a 44-point January loss.
That game, incidentally, has been graded down to the second worst for the Collins-Jordan tandem. At least that game was on the road, it was the second of a back-to-back jaunt, and the ghost of Hoffa was an intimidating presence in the three-second lane.
The Wizards are in an ever-shaky position, with a three-game road trip before them, as the Vince Carter-less Raptors and Hawks follow the Nets. A goose egg cannot be discounted, not when you have lost to Hubie Brown's juggernaut in Memphis, one almost as dead as the other.
It is funny how 9-12 can look so different from one season to the next. Last season's team overachieved. This season's team is underachieving.

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