- The Washington Times - Monday, January 27, 2003

The Wizards apparently have decided to call it a season and not let anyone in on it.
The work stoppage comes 44 games into the season, with 38 to go, and a schedule ready to turn nasty.
Coach Doug Collins questioned the "will, energy and effort" of the players following the latest crime against basketball on Fun Street, this 97-89 tale of two halves.
It was not that the Wizards lost by eight points to the Timberwolves. The Wizards already have shown themselves to be proficient in that area. They lose with the worst. It was just 13 days ago that they lost at home to Dr. Jack Kevorkian's Canadian team.
It was how the Wizards lost to the Timberwolves, with one competent half followed by an inept half. Which team is which? It beats Collins.
"It was like somebody drugged us at halftime," Collins said.
Speaking of the potentially inebriated, Rod Strickland was in the house, although with the contingent from Jesse Ventura's state. Strickland made the pilgrimage to Tony Cheng's neighborhood by team bus, which D.C. Police Chief Charles Ramsey took as a sign to leave the Breathalyzer in the squad car.
As it was, the mind-boggling performance of the Wizards was enough to drive others to drink. How does a team post 58 points in the first half and just 31 points in the second half? How does the home team trail by 10 points with 4:01 left after leading by 15 points at halftime? Where is the fight? Where is the resistance? Where is the team's Howard Beale-like attitude? The Wizards are not mad, and they appear willing to take it forevermore.
An aside to Kwame Brown: Not to be unfair or anything, but halfway into your second season in the NBA, it would be nice if you knew all the team's plays on offense. This is not to nit-pick. This is not to clutter your 20-year-old mind.
But here's the thing: After Michael Jordan receives the ball on the left side of the key, you are supposed to set a down pick for either Jerry Stackhouse or Larry Hughes. You know how it works. You impede the progress of the defender with your body, and either Stackhouse or Hughes cuts off you to take the pass from Jordan for an open 18-footer.
This is a very simple play. Everyone knows the play, even the new arrivals in Chinatown. You should not need a dirty look from Jordan before moving to set the pick. That spoils the surprise of it. Jordan gives you a dirty look, the opposition sees the dirty look and then says, "Oh, yeah, pick coming. Kwame forgot to set another pick." See the problem? The dirty look from Jordan takes all the spontaneity out of it.
The little things like that are starting to accumulate on the Wizards.
To be honest, Marcus Fizer is not so little. He is built like a sumo wrestler, only he does not wear a diaper. In his off hours, who knows? Who knew the after-hours attire of Marv Albert, besides the toupee?
Anyway, Fizer was the problem for the Wizards in Chicago, the first indictment of the lost weekend. Somewhere in his fourth-quarter scoring binge against the Wizards, brawn seemed a natural counter to the assault, either Charles Oakley or Etan Thomas. Yet neither player was permitted to leave his seat on the bench, and in the case of Oakley, coming off his takedown of P.J. Brown in New Orleans, it was particularly curious.
Instead, Fizer was allowed to push around the stick figures of the Wizards before shooting the ball several inches from the rim. Give Fizer credit. He is a pure shooter from five inches or thereabouts, no question about it.
The small matter of the Wizards being in the playoffs is swelling with doubt. Just seven games ago, five of them losses, Collins was talking of the Wizards securing homecourt advantage in the first round of the playoffs. Now the Wizards are in the roll-over mode, and George Karl's bunch in Milwaukee is relevant again. That is a fairly incriminating development in itself, considering Karl appeared ready to beat John Lucas to the unemployment line a few weeks ago after being unable to pin the blame on Glenn Robinson or Doc Rivers or USA Basketball.
The funk enveloping the Wizards is possibly terminal. Collins made an appeal to the suspects to muster up whatever intestinal fortitude is in them after their 24-minute bout of rest and recreation against the Timberwolves.
"I can take losing," Collins said. "But not like that. That is not right."
The chance to see if the message was received comes tonight, with the Suns in town.


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