- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 7, 2004

There was no commitment to defense in Tony Cheng’s neighborhood last night.

This was a shoot-from-the-hip affair. You take your best shot. Now here is our best shot.

The Wizards stayed in touch with their pretty side against Shaquille O’Neal and the Heat.

The Wizards stood around a lot on defense. They directed the opposition to the basket, being sure to stay out of the way. The Wizards set out orange highway cones for Dwyane Wade and watched in amazement as he drove to the basket, making one layup after the other.

The Wizards appeared not to want to offend the visitors, preferring not to stick a body on anyone or make an effort to move laterally.

Even Wade, in dribbling the length of the court on one occasion in the first half, found it odd that no one bothered to pick him up before he converted a layup. He kept looking around, waiting for someone to come over to him, until finally — in boredom, no doubt — he completed the play by waltzing easily to the basket.

Wade probably could have stopped underneath the basket, checked the barometric pressure and put a call into his agent before shooting the ball, and no one with the Wizards would have bothered to check on him.

The Wizards are very nice fellows. They help blue-haired grandmothers cross the mean streets of the nation’s capital. They say their prayers each night before going to sleep. They pick up after themselves. They are polite to a fault.

They bump you, inadvertently, of course, and say, “Sorry. Is there anything I can do to make your boo-boo feel better?”

Give the Wizards this: You can bring them home to your parents and not be embarrassed.

Etan Thomas will read poetry to your parents, and Brendan Haywood will start backpedaling if he thinks he has not made a good impression with them.

Unfortunately for the Wizards, this is not a finishing school. This is the NBA. You cannot be shy in the NBA. You cannot be indifferent to the dirty stuff. You have to set hard picks. You have to be willing to step in front of someone to draw a player-control foul. It is not glamorous work, getting a bruise here and there. They do not flash the game’s gritty stuff on ESPN.

But grit is how teams win in the NBA, no matter how gifted a team may be on offense.

You can check with the Mavericks on that point.

Coach Eddie Jordan has made defense one of his principal tenets with the Wizards.

First impression after three games: It has not taken with the Wizards.

Jordan needs to drag his players back to remedial class.

The Wizards are not built to be a great defensive team. Gilbert Arenas, Antawn Jamison, Larry Hughes, Jarvis Hayes and Juan Dixon are all shooters. They roll out of bed each morning desperate to start the day with a jump shot. But the Wizards could be a competent defensive team.

All we are saying is give defense a chance.

You cannot flag players to the basket, as if it is the Indy 500. You cannot resort to the matador defensive maneuver. You cannot be a pretty boy and expect to be anything more than a patsy in the end.

The Wizards were fortunate to have O’Neal in foul trouble most of the game. O’Neal picked up his third foul with 5:28 left in the second quarter and left the game. He was cited for his fourth foul in the third quarter and went to back the bench again. He was mostly a nonfactor.

It was the opposite with Wade. He seemingly did whatever struck his fancy, with the Wizards acting befuddled.

Let’s help here: Wade, No.3.

The Wizards just might want to make him a priority next time, which just happens to be Tuesday night in Miami.

Wade turned out to be a combination of Magic/Isiah/Oscar against the Wizards.

He turned out to be the difference.

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