- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 2, 2002

CHICAGO All of a sudden, it's last season all over again for the Washington Wizards.
There is no Michael Jordan, no defense, little offense, no continuity and seemingly no remedy in sight.
Playing their second game without Jordan (knee) since he went on the injured list, the Wizards offered little resistance in a 90-81 loss to the Chicago Bulls in front of 22,623 at the United Center last night.
The Wizards have now won one game in the last three weeks. However, it appears the shadow cast by Jordan hangs ominously around the Wizards' necks, even when the superstar is not with the team.
In fact, as they try to hang together, the motivation of getting wins without Jordan in the lineup is even working against them.
"We're starting to look around a little bit," Wizards forward Popeye Jones said. "But where are we going to get help from? The help is right here in the room and we've all got to come together and get this done. We don't want you guys writing that these guys are nothing without Mike. We've got to be able to hold the fort until Mike can get healthy. We're looking at it almost like a personal challenge. We've got to dig deep and we've got to fight. In this league nobody feels sorry for you."
That the Wizards are pressing to prove that they can win without Jordan is clear, and it has been at every turn. When they fell to the Detroit Pistons on Feb. 20, the Wizards, who left Jordan behind due to his bad right knee, all wore high socks just below their knees in an attempt to show unity and belief in themselves without Jordan.
But just as they did against Detroit, the Wizards (27-30) lost last night, their seventh in a row and ninth in their last 10 games. Richard Hamilton, who led all scorers with 30 points, echoed Jones.
"It's tough right now," said Hamilton, who was questionable before the game with a stomach virus. "Tonight, this is a game we have to win. Playing without M.J., we've got to learn how to win without him. We just have to get over that hump."
The Wizards played their second game in a row without starting center Jahidi White (shoulder) and his backup, seven-foot rookie Brendan Haywood (knee). That said, Jones, who scored just four points in 21 minutes, said the Wizards should have won.
"No disrespect to them. I understand they've been playing a lot better," Jones continued. "But with Rip not feeling good and both of our centers out we probably still should win the game."
Jones is on the money here. After all, the Bulls (16-42) started two former high schoolers (Tyson Chandler at forward and center Eddy Curry), and the Wizards made one of them look like he made the right decision leaving early.
Curry established career highs in points (19) and rebounds (14), and he also recorded a game-high three blocked shots. Chandler was not much of a factor, scoring just two points after a hyper-extended finger forced him from the game after eight minutes.
Another teenage pro, the Wizards' Kwame Brown, struggled once again. In 21 minutes, Brown finished with three points and three rebounds.
The Bulls got a nice effort from reserve forward Marcus Fizer, who posted 19 points and grabbed 10 boards as the Bulls outrebounded the Wizards 45-40. The Bulls also shot better the Wizards, making 41.8 percent of their field goals compared with the 36.6 the Wizards shot.
The Wizards will have a shot at redemption on Tuesday when the Bulls come to MCI Center. In between that time, though, they need to figure out a way to win against a tougher opponent, Orlando, tomorrow. With a loss then, the Wizards will match their season-high for losses with eight.
"We've got to find a way to climb out of this," said a despondent Doug Collins. "Nobody is going to feel sorry for us. Wins are harder to come by for us, but we've got to keep on trying to get over the hump."
Before it becomes a mountain.


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