- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Antawn Jamison has fallen into a mentally spun abyss and can’t seem to climb out of it.

His recent swoon mirrors the troubles of a team in an awful funk.

The only break the Wizards have caught lately is the one to the right kneecap of Jarvis Hayes.

The Wizards have dropped three consecutive games against the highly suspect on their West Coast swing, although the Trail Blazers remain a threat to Duke’s national championship aspirations because of the Maryland tandem of Juan Dixon and Steve Blake.

Jamison has been the incredible shrinking All-Star the last five games, confined to a dreary 18-for-72 shooting figure that reveals a mental failure instead of a physical or mechanical one.

Jamison has misplaced his confidence and lost the shooter’s conviction that the next attempt is going down, no matter how many previous shots have missed.

That is the luxury of being a scorer, as Jamison is. He apparently has forgotten that as well.

Jamison is starting to shoot less, as he becomes less certain of the outcome. His wayward shot has led to a deterioration in other areas, especially in rebounding.

Jamison fashioned six double-doubles in a row before he started shooting the ball as if he were Mr. Magoo.

His copious rebounding totals were beneficial to his scoring because he was earning an easy put-back or two in each game. And an easy basket or two is sometimes the best remedy to an ailing shooter.

Yet now Jamison is unable to connect from the perimeter with any consistency and unable to get a couple of easy baskets that could clear his head of the demons.

He is not merely missing a lot of shots. Sometimes he is missing everything, both the rim and backboard.

The mind of a professional athlete can be a contradictory place. Professional athletes know they are fairly special. If not, they would not be competing on the highest rung of their sport.

Yet their pathological urge to excel is partly rooted in a plethora of insecurities.

Sometimes those insecurities are there for everyone to see, as in the case of Jamison.

To say he needs to take a couple of deep breaths and everything will be fine is to ignore his capacity to feel the burden of this chemistry-challenged team.

Unlike last season, when a third scoring option was firmly established, the Wizards desperately need an efficient 20-10 from Jamison on most nights.

Even when he was delivering those numbers, the Wizards were muddling along, still attempting to develop a rhythm and forge a sense of continuity.

Now with his shot AWOL, the Wizards go through stretches of a game looking lost.

Their misdeeds are too numerous to cite. If it is not a failure to play defense in one stretch of a game, it is a failure to recognize the elementary laws of the game.

No, no, no, Gilbert Arenas. That 40-foot crosscourt pass is just an awful idea. The slowest of the slow could pick it off because of its geometrically poor angle.

Jamison and the Wizards understand the seriousness of their desultory position. They just aren’t sure what to do about it. The effort is usually evident; the confidence is not.

The Wizards forged a 5-1 start because of a belief in their worthiness. Now that faith has been shattered. They were not as strong as their 5-1 record indicated. But they certainly are not the sad-sack 4-13 team they have been since.

Sometimes, when the anxiety is high and the brain is overwhelmed with too much information, the best instruction a coach can give his players is to forget about everything.

Just say to heck with it all and go out and play a game that actually can be fun.

And if you are the coach of the Wizards, you are obligated to repeat those instructions over and over to Jamison.


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