- The Washington Times - Monday, May 19, 2003

This is Day 12 of the post-Michael Jordan Era on Fun Street, where the Peking lame duck is the special of the moment.

Wes Unseld is retiring from his general manager duties after the NBA Draft next month, coach Doug Collins is waiting to receive his golden parachute from Abe Pollin, and Jordan’s people are all packed up and ready to join their messiah in a city to be selected later.

You could say the franchise is adrift, only that would be understating it.

Who’s on first, what’s on second, and Juan Dixon has been solicited to represent the interests of the franchise at the NBA lottery later this week.

The latter qualifies as the first hint of life since the principals came down with a bad case of lawyer-induced reticence.

Even the Dancing Benjamin of Sun Trust Bank has disappeared from view.

You always could count on the Dancing Benjamin to be more annoying than the Wizards. As bad as it ever was with the Wizards on a particular night, the Dancing Benjamin would surface just in time to show what bad really is.

The Wizards would be in the throes of squandering a double-digit lead, and then, on cue, there would be the Dancing Benjamin, saying, “Don’t you want me, baby?”

What kind of question is that? Don’t you want me, baby? Are you kidding? Nobody wants the Dancing Benjamin. He is the kind of guy who gets beat up for his lunch money.

But now there is no Dancing Benjamin to provide a counterpoint to the inertia enveloping the Wizards.

There is only the ever-annoying Paul Simon, who has left his casket to be the official relic of the NBA this season.

Simon, of course, is “gonna watch you shine, gonna watch you grow, gonna paint a sign, so you’ll always know, as long as one and one is two, there never could be a fan who loves the Wizards more than I love them.”

Simon has two messages: read to achieve or write bad songs to achieve.

There is darkness about the Wizards, along with a softly creeping vision and the sound of silence.

Or as Simon puts it: “Hello, Darkness, my old friend. I’ve come to talk with you again. Because a vision softly creeping left its seeds while I was sleeping and the vision that was planted in my brain still remains within the sound of silence.”

The Wizards are seeking to be active participants in the NBA next season, if not playoff aspirants with the right personnel move or two. They don’t have to be incredibly competent to be relevant in the dreary Eastern Conference, just vaguely coherent.

It would be nice to have a person in charge of the basketball operations who plans to be around next season. That would be only fair to the personnel and to the fans being asked to commit their time and money to the cause.

If changes are coming to the franchise, it is best if the changes are implemented now.

Paul Silas, to name everyone’s favorite coaching candidate, is not going to be on the market forever.

Collins is perhaps the first coach in NBA history to receive a vote of confidence through the draft. His devotion to the draft is possibly suspect, considering the circumstances.

If it helps, Collins is not apt to lose another game or experience another meltdown before the draft. That would be a measure of progress in his case.

Otherwise, the Wizards need a basketball executive, a coach, a point guard, a commitment from Jerry Stackhouse, a vow to be an All-Star from Kwame Brown and about 41 victories to make the playoffs next season.

A sign from the top also might be beneficial.

This franchise does not have to be consigned to oblivion unless there is an absence of direction.

What are the Wizards planning to do?

We can’t hear you.

Who’s coming? Who’s going?

You dismiss the basketball icon and then pull down the shades before a dismayed fan base.

Wait a second. What is the plan? There is a plan, isn’t there? A vision?

Give us something to keep hope alive. Give us the Dancing Benjamin.

If not, there is a back-to-the-future feel about all this, to the nights of inflated attendance figures, to 5,000 fannies in the seats that magically became listed as 15,000.

This is Day 12 of the Jordan-induced public relations fallout. Do you know where the franchise is?

Hello, Darkness, my old friend.

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