- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 27, 2002

You know what the old men in China's government say after taking their cut from the NBA.

No bling-bling for Yao Ming.

This is just the beginning of a peculiar marriage between the Rockets and Yao. Both parties must pretend to be responsive to the Chinese government, the nosy mother-in-law in the arrangement.

Yao eventually may help the Rockets as the Dutchman, Rik Smits, helped the Pacers. That has been peddled as a best-case outcome. The worst is Shawn Bradley, the NBA's dead man sitting.

Who really knows? But know this: Col. Sanders beats Gen. Tso, either with the original recipe or crispy.

Jay Williams, the most complete player in the draft, was selected by the Bulls, with the No.2 pick overall.

The question marks soon followed, some more pronounced than others. What's a personnel guru to do around an ill-stocked cupboard? Pick and pray.

It was another bad year to be a senior. Just one, Melvin Ely at No.12, was among the first 13 selections in the lottery portion of the NBA Draft. Eight underclassmen, three foreigners, one high school phenom and Ely made up the 13.

Forward Jared Jeffries received the assignment to rescue the Wizards from Jahidi White and Christian Laettner. Jeffries is believed to have a physical advantage on both, mostly because White is missing two hands and Laettner two feet.

Jeffries already has played Michael Jordan to a shooting tie.

"I have something for him," Jeffries said, meaning something to break the tie next time.

The Wizards tabbed Juan Dixon with the 17th pick, made available by the departure of Courtney Alexander. It was another chance to find a rare precious gem in a gravel pit.

Dixon is accustomed to beating the odds, first as a youngster in Baltimore and then as an undersized guard at Maryland.

Maybe Dixon does it again.

His chance with the Wizards was prompted by a big miss.

Alexander was slated to be the team's No.3 player in the team's attack, fitted behind Jordan and Richard Hamilton, before he succumbed to injuries and the hint of discontent in his manner. His likeness was one of those on the cover of the team's media guide and featured on banners outside the arena on Fun Street.

Eighty-two games later, 37 of them victories, Alexander commanded a footnote in the draft. In a way, Alexander is not even where he was two years ago, which was the 13th pick overall.

The exchange is not intended to sway the frustrated among the faithful. The same goes for the dog and pony quality of the draft. Help is defined broadly, and with no guarantees.

The NBA's hard-luck entries take what they can get, and that goes double for the Wizards. Even the Nets are no longer the Nets.

Uncertainty is the favored accessory of the Wizards, like championship rings to the Lakers, starting with another summer of triple-secret oaths involving Jordan.

The cloud formations over Washington indicate one thing with Jordan, the tarot cards another. To crack the code, you must know the secret meeting place, the secret handshake and the secret password. This is basketball, after all, not the CIA.

The Wizards have added several new faces, whatever that is worth, along with the usual proclamations of hope.

The same offensive was made in honor of Kwame Brown last June. By October, after Brown started to exhibit the first signs of adolescent muddleness, Doug Collins behaved as an NBA coach whose quality of life is connected to wins and losses.

Who knows what to think now other than to note the NASCAR driver struggling to get out of Brown's basketball body?

He is still young. There is still time. Will the higher-ups with the Wizards feel obligated to repeat the mantra next summer?

The bloom from draft night does not last long, the beauty wasted on youth.

Patience is the rallying cry after the fuss turns out to be a turnover, a bad shot and a weak sense of purpose.

Next June, the NBA goes through the process again.


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