- The Washington Times - Friday, March 7, 2003

The Wizards are poised again to break the hearts of their supporters.
The Wizards have a must-win game on the schedule and a growing number of suspects on the roster, injured or otherwise.
Michael Jordan, Dead Man Playing, has been almost consigned to a wheelchair. A medical degree is helpful in his presence. Prayers, too.
"I'm going out with no bullets," Jordan said last week.
No one figured his chamber would be empty this soon.
His resolve is as fierce as ever, if it matters around a rebellious 40-year-old body.
Jordan's capacity to perform a basketball miracle has been defined down in recent days. He used to be able to walk on water. Now it is a miracle if he is able to walk onto the court under his own power.
Coach Doug Collins raised the notion after the Wizards defeated Team Terminal from Los Angeles. Jordan was nearly out of it, which put him ahead of the visitors.
Dennis Johnson, who has come to be built like an ex-truck driver instead of an ex-NBA champion, is the latest victim of Donald Sterling's tight-fisted vision. It was only Johnson's second game as head caretaker, and it was noteworthy only because the dysfunctional parties in his midst seemed to be in a hurry to quit on him. That feeble display after a coaching change was quick even by the standards of a league that embraces quickness.
The Bucks, the opponent tonight, are in no such state, although George Karl still has a tendency to look blank as he leans against the scorer's table. His old buddy, Gary Payton, has joined the underachieving fun in Milwaukee, if only as a rent-a-player.
The Wizards and Bucks appear to be engaged in a fight to the 82-game finish, with one or the other backing into the playoffs. They split their first two meetings of the season. So tonight's game qualifies as the tiebreaker, if it comes to that.
"I know we're going to compete," Collins said. "I don't know how well we're going to play."
That admission is understandable after 61 games, considering the 61 games and the enigmatic nature of Brendan Haywood's hands. You never know which pair of hands he is going to bring to the workplace, either the bad ones or the worse ones.
At least Christian Laettner is showing some nastiness in the three-second lane. Charles Oakley must be contagious. A nasty streak helps around Anthony Mason, who finally has gone and done it. Mason is now wider than he is tall and just the sort of player capable of tormenting the Wizards in a pivotal game.
The Bucks are believed to be halfway committed to the race, which is an improvement in their case. They are not unlike the Wizards, both just persistent enough to mock the passion around them.
The Wizards have a 1-2 record in must-win games this week.
The loss at home to Toronto was appropriate, in a way.
The journey, after all, started in Toronto, where the team's initial promise was tempered by a 68-point eyesore. By mid-January, when the Raptors dropped into town with the infirm, the blind and the lame, the Wizards elected to be merciful. The three losses to the Raptors have the power to haunt the Wizards after the bookkeeping is completed in mid-April.
Toronto reveals one side of the Wizards. The other side is more hopeful. The Wizards have defeated the Pistons and Pacers on the road, plus flirted with consistency at times. Before taking up again with uncertainty, the Wizards were playing their best basketball of the season.
Fate interrupted the team's good feelings after Tyronn Lue mopped the floor with his head and Jordan brushed up against Reggie Miller's bony body. The overcompensation has been twofold: Larry Hughes going one-on-five in Lue's place and Jordan coming down with back spasms.
Hughes, like Juan Dixon, is a worthy player who is sometimes out of place at point guard. The unsteadiness tells on others in stretches. It also contributes to the bad quarter, a habit of the Wizards that inevitably undermines the other 36 minutes.
A healthy dose of skepticism is advised around the Wizards tonight. They should lose to the Bucks. That has been their season-long predilection in the vicinity of potential prosperity. They lose tonight and then beat the Knicks in New York on Sunday night.
The Wizards are sort of like the weather. Or are they sort of like Haywood's hands? Either way, you just never know what you are going to get from the Wizards.

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