- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 3, 2004

Q: The “Pure Energy” marketing stuff is everywhere. The Wizards got rid of a lot of garbage by dumping Jerry Stackhouse and Christian Laettner on Dallas in return for Antawn Jamison. The Wizards really can be competitive in the NBA’s Southeast Division. Am I on to something?

A: You want the truth?

Q: Even if it hurts.

A: Fine. The Wizards privately are brimming with confidence that they finally are on to something.

They are young, athletic and big.

The move to the Southeast Division means the Wizards — one of sports’ most irrelevant franchises over the past 25 years — will find similarly uninspiring company in the likes of the Hawks and Magic.

So even carrying the weight of the franchise’s glum history, the Wizards have reason to be optimistic.

Q: What’s the deal with “the System”? It produced just 25 wins last season. What has to happen to finally make it work?

A: It only will work if the Wizards avoid a repeat of the sloppy play of last season, when they led the league in turnovers and ranked last in assists. This is a recipe for disaster.

The good news is that every player who played for the Wizards last season claims to be more comfortable with the system now. So let’s give them the benefit of the doubt.

Q: Speaking of doubts, is this the year Kwame Brown starts to resemble Kevin Garnett and/or Jermaine O’Neal?

A: No, it’s not. Next question.

Q: Nope, nope, nope. I don’t have another question until you tell me about Kwame. I saw some of those big games he had against guys like CWebb and JO. If we get that on a consistent basis, you can punch our ticket to the postseason right now.

A: Fine. If the Wizards get what they anticipate from Gilbert Arenas, Larry Hughes and Antawn Jamison, they won’t need Kwame to make first-team All-NBA.

With Jamison down on the block, Kwame should be an afterthought to a lot of defenders. That means he should be able to get a lot more open looks — of the up-close-and-personal variety — at the basket.

Judging from the way Kwame and Gilbert interacted during the preseason, they appear to have put their little tiffs from last season behind them and are ready to ball.

You can’t deny that KB made real progress last season. The key for him is to get back from his foot surgery and play catch-up faster than he’s ever done in his life. He missed a lot by not having the chance to get used to Jamison, so the onus is on him to get up to speed.

Q: Is there any way we can get a redo on that Jerry Stackhouse for Richard Hamilton trade?

A: Let’s see, now. Stack is in Dallas — and he’s already declared himself out of the opener with a thigh contusion.

As for Rip, that young man is the happy owner of the finest mid-range game in the league, and later on this week he will slip a championship ring on his finger in Detroit.

My man, it’s time to let go of the past. Just let it go.

Q: Interesting concept, letting go. Can Gilbert let go of the ball enough to become a true point guard?

A: Gilbert is never, ever going to be a true point guard. But then, what is a true point guard in this league?

If Allen Iverson can buy into playing the point in Philadelphia, the Wizards can get by with Gilbert manning that position.

Plus, there is no alternative.

Q: So when is the NBA going intecontinental?

A: Don’t know and don’t care. What, you want the rest of the world to learn to shoot the ball the wrong way, too?

Q: What are the best reasons to go to MCI Center?

A: Shaq is there Saturday. Steve Francis visits with his new team next Wednesday. Carmelo and the new-look Nuggets come to town in early December. Get the picture?

Q: The picture I get.

A: Good, because that’s the marketing scheme they’ve resuscitated. You know, come out and check out the other team’s studs.

Q: I don’t like that. Never did.

A: Don’t hate the player, partner.

Q: Let’s get back to our guys. How can it be a good thing to have so many free agents on the roster?

A: Usually it isn’t. Teams that find themselves in that position usually talk about how this helps to bring out the best in guys, and that playing for a contract is a motivating factor.

But what usually happens is guys wind up playing for themselves. It’s one of the quickest ways to get a coach fired. Ask anybody who has coached the Clippers in the last 15 to 20 years.

Q: So the Wizards have a new look, new players and a fresh attitude. What’s the real reason I should watch this team?

A: Perhaps because the Redskins sold you a bill of goods.

You thought Joe Gibbs was coming back to town with a white hat on his head to save the day. What you got is a bad football team that offers no more reason for optimism than when the Ol’ Ball Coach was in town.

There’s no hockey — not that this town supported it, anyway — and the baseball team that’s coming here couldn’t cut it in Canada.

Get the picture?

Q: Uh, yeah. I do.



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