- The Washington Times - Monday, January 19, 2004

The would-be juggernaut on Fun Street is up to a two-game winning streak, their first in two months.

The cheerful occasion was facilitated by the NBA refuse that blew into Tony Cheng’s neighborhood yesterday.

The Bulls are an eternally incomplete operation, reduced to a decrepit Scottie Pippen and the inner sumo wrestler of Eddy Curry.

The Wizards missed more layups than a youth-league team, but still managed to defeat the Bulls 93-83.

The NBA is hardly picky about the quality of its winners in the cold darkness of January, when the schedule is as apt to beat a team as an opponent.

Eddie Jordan, the victim of this 82-game march to the lottery, walked to the podium in the press room and declared, “I don’t know what to say.”

That possibly was symptomatic of the trauma of a 12-28 record and the dread ahead.

Jordan cracked a smile and then a good line.

“I’m just day-to-day,” Jordan said to the faint signs of encouragement in his midst.

The Wizards closed the game on an 18-2 run after they allowed themselves to be in an 18-point hole late in the second quarter.

“Hopefully, it pays dividends,” Jordan said.

The team’s struggle to be vaguely relevant was empowered by the one-time Maryland backcourt of Steve Blake and Juan Dixon, the local favorites who rate a free pass from those who confuse the NCAA with the NBA.

The confusion is often mediated by Scott Jackson, the team’s postgame guru in charge of soothing the team’s long-time sufferers.

As a caller once put it to Jackson: “How many NBA championships have Blake and Dixon won?”

That simple truth is often cast aside in the quest to find quick answers to protracted deficiencies.

Blake, a second-round draft surprise, no doubt, was extended to 45 minutes after Brevin Knight was held out of the game because of a bum knuckle.

That brings to four the number of essential personnel in various inoperable states, counting the mysterious knee of Jerry Stackhouse, the persistent abdominal strain of Gilbert Arenas and the drug-induced suspension of the team’s apostle.

Blake’s steady manner resulted in nine points, seven rebounds and four assists. The latter statistic would have been more impressive if the team was not bent on restoring the thrill to the layup drill.

Not that the short-pants version of Eminem could object to the two-foot woes of others after missing a layup in the open court in the third quarter.

Dixon, who has reinvented himself as the self-appointed “black hole” of the team, has rediscovered his outside shooting touch in the last three games after performing cruel and unusual punishment on assorted rims around the league this season.

Dixon finished with 17 points, five assists and five steals as Jordan deployed his version of “small ball” on the Bulls.

The move is permissible against center-deficient teams, as it is with the Bulls and the incredibly expanding Curry, whose daily all-you-can-eat intake probably could feed a Third World country.

With Jarvis Hayes playing power forward, in concert with Blake, Dixon and Larry Hughes, the Wizards were able to extend their defensive thrust. The payoff was a 25-point second half by the Bulls.

“Sometimes guys just miss shots, too,” Jordan said, aware that the visiting team is not unlike the home team, both prone to staggering fits of wrong-headed shooting.

The winning team shot a modest 38.2 percent but limited its turnovers to nine, a small victory in itself.

Hayes had a team-high 14 rebounds, his second game in a row in double-figures.

Brendan Haywood earned a game ball after resurrecting himself from the dead yet again. He had seven rebounds, four offensive, in 14 highly active minutes, proving anew that sometimes the best way to reach his head is by first planting his 7-foot fanny on the bench.

“In that little stretch, he meant a lot to us,” Jordan said.

It was hardly artful, as it sometimes goes in an affair between the NBA’s vanquished.

The search to find meaning in the team’s two-game aberration was blunted by the condition of the fallen, the travel-weary Sonics followed by the shell left by Jerry Krause.

“It’s good to be at home,” Jordan said.

Home is the saving tonic of the young and fragile.

The prospect of the team’s first three-game winning streak this season awaits in Boston.


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