- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 25, 2003

PORTLAND, Ore. It wasn't that long ago that the Washington Wizards had pretty much written off Jahidi White.

But desperate times call for desperate measures, and the Wizards, as the losses mount and the frustration grows more palpable, are as desperate as they come. And out of this desperation is the growing need to throw White into the fray more often.

"I've got to get Jahidi more playing time," Wizards coach Doug Collins said. "He's the only guy on our team that other guys look for when they come down the lane on us. They look for him."

White, playing in just his sixth game of the season Sunday in the Wizards' crushing 113-107 loss at Golden State, was perhaps the team's only bright spot. After missing most of the season with a slow-healing, surgically repaired knee, White posted season highs in minutes (22), points (10) and rebounds (nine).

The Wizards (32-37) have now lost twice to Golden State. However, when they played earlier in the season, the Warriors pounded out a 48-34 rebounding advantage. This time around, though, White's physical presence helped the Wizards to a 47-43 edge on the glass.

However, White could do very little else to help the Wizards, especially on a night when Golden State's Gilbert Arenas went for a career-high 41 points and Antawn Jamison added 37.

Tonight, as the Wizards attempt to earn their first victory on the third and middle stop on their Western Conference trip, White probably will see his number called again against the talented line of the Portland Trail Blazers (44-25). They desperately need a victory to stay in striking distance of Milwaukee, which leads the Wizards by 1½ games for the final Eastern Conference playoff spot.

"I think that everybody wants to make the playoffs," said White, who was activated for the first time this season on Feb. 26. "We just have to pull together throughout the whole game and still execute. It's unfortunate that we don't have a lot of time. We've got to pull together like yesterday."

Although he has not been an integral part of the team due to the slow nature of his recovery, he clearly has an understanding of the Wizards' urgent situation.

The Wizards have just 13 games remaining in the season, 10 of which are on the road, where the Wizards are just 9-23. They are riding an ugly three-game losing streak and they have lost 12 of their last 14 games away from MCI Center. They have lost eight of their last 11 overall, and their last road win came exactly one month ago today at Indiana. And with four games remaining on this trip including tonight's game against Portland, the second-place team in the Pacific Division, every game is a must-win.

"Our backs are against the wall, no question about it," White said. "We have to step up and meet the challenge, and we've got to do it now. If we don't we'll be looking back on a lot of blown opportunities. And we won't have anybody to blame but ourselves."

Said Jerry Stackhouse: "Right now we've got to try to right the ship before we even begin to talk about the playoffs."

With each mounting loss the Wizards appear to be getting better in one specific area: playing the blame game.

One night it's the younger players' fault. Then take your pick here it's either the coach's substitution pattern or Collins' inability to get everyone involved in the offense. Through it all, the one consistent problem that everyone seems to agree on is the Wizards' porous defense recently.

"It seems like that's what we do," Collins said. "We hit some adversity and then we crumble defensively."

The Wizards' main defensive shortcomings appear to be in two very specific areas. As the season has progressed, the Wizards have gotten progressively worse at protecting the basket when opposing players penetrate. White, an aggressive shot-blocker, can probably provide some help in this area.

However, teams also have done a particularly good job at knocking down 3-pointers in recent games against Washington. Golden State was 10-for-22 from behind the arc. In their loss to Phoenix at the start of the trip, the Suns were 8-for-14 on 3s. And even though much of the attention in the Wizards' last loss at home before this road trip commenced was focused on former Wizard Ben Wallace grabbing 20 rebounds against them, the Pistons also converted eight of 19 3-pointers.

One thing White won't do, even if the Wizards fail in their effort to reach the playoffs for the 14th time in 15 seasons, is bemoan the fact that the surgery on his left knee pretty much robbed him of a season.

White has said that he felt the knee was starting to give him trouble around this time last year. However, he kept on playing. When the offseason arrived and it hadn't gotten any better, White was told that surgery was his only option for pain relief.

"Yeah, but I don't look at it like that," White said. "I'm out here. Let me go do my job. Let me go do what Coach asks me to do and do it to the best of my ability and at the same time try to help us win some games."

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