- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 9, 2005

Antawn Jamison is the latest member of the Wizards to come down with the malediction of Tony Cheng’s neighborhood.

His right knee is hurting, with his 386-game playing streak at an end.

It is the same as it ever was, Same As It Ever Was, SAME AS IT EVER WAS, to borrow from David Byrne.

The seemingly healthy show up to Fun Street and end up looking like Linda Blair in “The Exorcist,” with their heads swiveling in a 360-degree fashion and their mouths spewing torrents of a green substance.

The Wizards don’t need a coach, as much as they need a team of doctors, a nutritionist and a risk-assessment advisor.

Here they are, with their best record after 59 games since the Hoover administration, and they look like a MASH unit, with gauze, tubes and oxygen tanks strewn all around.

Here is what it has come down to for the Wizards: One of their healthiest players is rookie Peter John Ramos, and he has spent most of the season on the injured list.

The Wizards have been reduced to a so-so Larry Hughes, a beat-up Gilbert Arenas, a shaky Kwame Brown, a tender Juan Dixon and a capricious Brendan Haywood.

The Wizards are essentially down to eight players, give or take Anthony Peeler, who, in NBA years, is about 95, so a coach is required to be incredibly judicious with his minutes.

Eight is enough if you are a family sitcom, or if you are up against the Bobcats, or if you are Lenny Wilkens and you sign three guys to a two-hour contract and pick up a couple of other guys out of the stands and defeat the Michael Jordan-led Wizards, which leads to the eyes of Doug Collins rolling into the back of his head and a lengthy discourse from him on what it means to be an NBA player and how it all relates to the meaning of life and Brown.

Seriously, the injury spike has to stop, like yesterday.

Why can’t Matt Williams ever be out with the flu, and not to wish ill will on the team’s senior vice-president of communications?

The Wizards could withstand the flu-induced loss of Williams, who is cut in the mold of Michael Ruffin. Instead, as usual, it is Etan Thomas who has come down with either the flu or the bubonic plague.

Whenever the poet goes out of the lineup, you are obligated to raise your antenna. He suffered what was believed to be a nondescript abdominal strain in training camp, and soon it became the worst abdominal strain in the history of sports, causing him to miss the first 32 games of the season and what appeared to be his first 100 free throw attempts.

Now it is Jamison.

If you cannot believe in the sturdiness of Jamison — the Cal Ripken of the short-pants crowd whose last missed game was the 1999-2000 season — who among the Wizards is likely to purge the ghosts of Jeff Ruland, Hot Plate Williams, Rex Chapman, Bernard King and Pervis Ellison, to name a few?

An injury apparently is part of the franchise’s initiation ceremony.

Arenas completed about his first two seconds with the Wizards last season before needing the services of a doctor.

You name the one-in-a-million injury, and the Wizards have endured it.

Jerry Stackhouse was never the same after a female realtor drew a player-control foul from him at the beach.

Gheorghe Muresan made the Oscar-worthy “My Giant” with Billy Crystal in 1997 and never appeared in another game with the team.

That was the same season in which Tracy Murray sustained a black eye after running into a door handle named Rod Strickland.

We thought all that was so much history.

But now, with the previously impregnable Jamison on the shelf and so many others in various states of infirmity, we have to accept anew the persistence of the injury karma.


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