- The Washington Times - Monday, March 3, 2003

The Wizards are down to a last chance to amend their unsteady season.
The time is short, their margin for error slight in the final 23 games of the regular season.
The urgency in Michael Jordan is one sign of the soberness. He is accumulating an unthinkable number of minutes in a bow to the team instead of his 40-year-old body. His itch to play again has been scratched, his need to rest certain to be satisfied soon enough.
It is his team the rest of the way. It also is his last stab at basketball glory, however it has been defined down by the passage of time and what qualifies as the help at his side.
The Wizards have come up against another soft spot in the schedule, which is usually their cue to be indifferent. They wouldn't be where they are, their playoff prospects tenuous, if they weren't predisposed to be apathetic against the lame.
Their weak performance in Miami last night is the latest exhibit.
A three-game sweep is necessary this week, considering what awaits the Wizards at the end of the month: a six-game West Coast swing that is expected to be grim, the stop in Denver excluded.
The Wizards have a makeup game with the Raptors tomorrow night, followed by a visit from the Clippers the next night and a visit from the mercurial Bucks two nights later.
The Wizards have almost as many inactive players as active ones, depending on how you count Jahidi White and Kwame Brown.
The team's two point guards, Tyronn Lue and Larry Hughes, are on the shelf, and someone named Anthony Goldwire has been rescued from Yakima, Wash., with a 10-minute contract.
The transaction merely reflects the desperation of both parties.
Goldwire made his debut near the end of the third quarter against the Bulls. A turnover and a 3-point prayer from Jamal Crawford at the buzzer soon followed. Coach Doug Collins walked from one end of the bench to the other before looking to the ceiling and gathering the strength to hold his tongue.
Goldwire committed another turnover near the end the third quarter against the Heat, a pivotal development in the game that showed a certain consistency on his part.
At least Bryon Russell seems to have recovered from his "migraine headache" at halftime in Indianapolis. The headache goes with his modest shooting percentage and dwindling capacity to be useful.
Now Russell knows how Collins usually feels after employing his services.
Jordan is left to impersonate a point guard at times, which reveals one of Juan Dixon's flaws. Dixon is not a point guard at the moment, just a shooter with no clearly defined position. The sacrifice is Jordan's, the proposition tricky.
Dixon has become essential to the team's cause, although the team is better served if he is receiving 25 minutes off the bench instead of 40 as a starter. That is not a criticism of Dixon, one of the steals of the NBA Draft last June after being put on hold until the 17th selection. That is just a reflection of his development as a rookie in the NBA.
Dixon has a tendency to massage the ball and to be too deliberate around pressure and the 24-second shot clock. The negatives are nullified as long as he is making shots and deflecting passes.
Understandably, the masses on Fun Street appreciate his lack of fear and willingness to stick his body in harm's way, along with his national championship turn with the University of Maryland last season. Dixon just may turn out to be the rare player who defies convention, who is neither a point guard nor a shooting guard, just a player.
The Wizards are flirting with a .500 record and a postseason date with either the Pacers or Nets or Pistons. That challenge hardly looks as daunting as it once did, judging by the funk that has enveloped the three leading teams in the Eastern Conference.
Brendan Haywood is attempting to behave like a 7-footer again, Christian Laettner is starting to become more familiar with the double-double, Jerry Stackhouse appears to be most of the way back from his groin injury and Jordan is diving to the floor after loose balls.
The resolve is especially paramount for a team that descends into uncertainty as soon as the season concludes.
Jordan is retiring, Charles Oakley is expected to join him, Russell will be anywhere but here, Stackhouse wants a fat contract from someone and Collins is apt to decide that the transition ahead is not appealing.
These last six weeks should mean everything to the Wizards.

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