- The Washington Times - Monday, February 24, 2003

The Wizards are forever lacking in the frontcourt, and sometimes, not even the combined excellence of Michael Jordan and Jerry Stackhouse can overcome that hard truth.
That was the case on Fun Street yesterday, in a stirring contest that required an overtime session before concluding in favor of the Mavericks 106-101.
Jordan and Stackhouse each scored 30 points, Juan Dixon added 16 and Tyronn Lue 12, and that pretty much encapsulates the up-and-down existence of the Wizards this season.
The Wizards generated 88 points from the perimeter and only 13 points from the post positions, and still, they nearly orchestrated the improbable as Jordan's 17-footer hit the back of the iron at the end of regulation.
Of course, the perimeter is a tough way to exist in the NBA. It is even tougher on the road, especially if your best player is 40 years old and not apt to have his legs because of the travel and your other perimeter players, like all perimeter players, are prone to have adjustment issues with the shooting backgrounds of the various venues.
At least Brendan Haywood is consistent. He is the incredible shrinking 7-footer, either at home or on the road.
Jordan passed the ball to Haywood early in the game with the Mavericks, and Haywood, as usual, turned the sequence into an adventure.
It is said you can't teach height in the NBA. You can't teach a player to have hands in the NBA, either.
Haywood is proof of that, along with Jahidi White.
White, who is undergoing the longest rehabilitation ever following knee injury, used to frustrate the masses with his inability to catch the simplest passes. Now it is Haywood who has reprised White's role.
The ball is thrown to Haywood, and he starts fumbling around, as if it is 2 in the morning and he is a couple of drinks past his limit. His legs turn wobbly, his hands go every which way. It seems the ball is playing tricks on him, dancing, fluttering, zigzagging, doing all kinds of strange things just as it reaches the vicinity of the two objects that, technically, function as Haywood's hands.
Jordan used to be a baseball player. Maybe he developed a spitball in the minor leagues. Maybe one of the referees should check the ball after it goes to Haywood, because stuff is always getting lost around Haywood's hands.
His hands are the Bermuda Triangle of the NBA. Now you see the ball. Now you don't.
This is not to put the woes of the frontcourt all in Haywood's hands. He would drop it anyway.
It also is hard to overlook both of Christian Laettner's personalities. There is the useful Laettner, and there is the Laettner who appears to be preoccupied.
Laettner is a threat to take one out of three open shots a game, which is an unacceptable percentage, considering he is one of the team's best perimeter shooters.
Laettner sometimes seems to have a need to check the barometric pressure before shooting the ball, which is fine against the more considerate opponents on the team's schedule. Some opponents, however, are aware of this proclivity in Laettner and grant him only 10-15 feet to shoot the ball instead of half the court. By the time he sticks his finger in the air to check the wind currents and then reads the tide table, the defense recovers to place a hand in his face.
Unlike Laettner, Kwame Brown is usually in a hurry, if only to please Jordan, which rarely pleases Jordan or coach Doug Collins.
Both Jordan and Collins study Brown's body language after he enters the game.
If Brown tries to shoot over 15 guys the first time he has the ball or fails to react to a penetrating guard, Collins treats this as a bad sign and soon dispatches Brown to the bench.
This is the game-to-game ordeal before Collins.
He never knows what he is going to get from his frontcourt players, with the exception of Charles Oakley, who gives the team a lot of floor burns, a bad attitude around anyone in an opposition jersey and one takedown of P.J. Brown.
Collins got almost nothing from his frontcourt with the Mavericks in town.
Haywood was playing to land a handicapped-parking license instead of a fat contract, Laettner was studying the weather conditions, Brown was bursting with pent-up energy that led to a cameo appearance and Etan Thomas was sidelined with a bruised left eye socket.
Another game that could have gone the way of the Wizards was lost.


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