- The Washington Times - Friday, January 18, 2002

The Wizards pulled a no-show in Tony Soprano’s territory on Wednesday night, and that is putting it nicely.

They just weren’t bad. They were nonexistent. They could have played in cement shoes, and no one would have been able to detect a drop in quality.

This was the varsity vs. the junior varsity. Or maybe the Wizards were the freshman team.

It was the first game of the season that should have come with a mercy rule and a money-back guarantee to the 20,049 in attendance.

Many came to see Michael Jordan. Instead, they saw Bobby Simmons lead the Wizards with 12 points. They saw the NBA equivalent of a Dead Team Walking. Even the dead might have put up more resistance than the Wizards.

The beating was aired in its entirety on television, and no viewer discretion was advised. A test pattern would have been preferable by the second half. Give Steve Buckhantz and Phil Chenier credit. They stayed awake to the end.

What can you say after a basket cuts the deficit to 40? A 35-0 run here just might make it interesting?

It should have been stopped soon after the opening tip. The Nets hit their first 13 shots and led 43-18 after the first quarter. By then, Nets coach Byron Scott was able to complete his crossword puzzle from his seat on the bench.

Most NBA teams eventually make a scoring run, no matter how one-sided a game is. The Wizards just made a run for the exit door.

Even in the Rod Strickland era, the team never was this anemic. Perhaps that was because Strickland, when all else failed, could knock opponents over with his breath.

Strickland once played with his shorts on backward. The Wizards played with their heads on backward. It was the franchise’s worst loss since 1993. And not to bring Bill Clinton into it, he did not inhale, but he never lost by 44 points. He even beat the Monica rap.

Coach Doug Collins claimed the listlessness was a product of fatigue, induced by the absence of Richard Hamilton and Christian Laettner.

Now the team knows how victims of Lyme disease feel.

After the Wizards lost by 19 points in Cleveland in late November, Michael Jordan said, “We stink.”

That must make this one stink squared. It was a Blue Plains special. Jordan, for one, can’t seem to throw the ball into the waste-treatment center at the moment. He shoots the ball, and the other nine players on the floor reach for their combat helmets.

The NBA released the box score to the public without a warning label. To be safe, you probably should have stuck it in a microwave oven to eradicate its toxicity.

Many of the fans left the arena at halftime. That must be how you say blankety blank in New Jerseyan sign language. Beating the traffic, of course, is one of the obsessions there, along with watching the landfills grow.

The Nets are acting serious, or what passes for serious in the Eastern Conference. They already have as many victories as last season at 26-11. All the high-fives go to Jason Kidd, who, unlike Stephon Marbury, knows how to run an offense.

This is just great. The conference now goes through the New Jersey Turnpike. There’s no there there, only exit signs, toll booths and Newark. The last time the Nets were genuine postseason aspirants, they were in the old ABA and they played their home games on Long Island. With the help of Dr. J, the Nets won the last ABA championship, in 1976. Since joining the NBA, they have won only two playoff series, the last one in 1984.

The Wizards, meanwhile, are in the midst of a four-game losing streak and a persistent medical watch. Hamilton’s groin injury appears to be terminal, and the break in Laettner’s leg is breaking Popeye Jones.

The Wizards play tomorrow in Chicago, a get-well opportunity for the team and an opportunity for Jordan to torment Jerry Krause.

It could go the other way as well. When the Wizards go south, they really mean it.

You could tell by the game in New Jersey. That one was for the record books, and you are urged to throw it out the window. Don’t forget to wash your hands afterward.

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