- The Washington Times - Monday, February 12, 2007

It was pitiful, pathetic, putrid.

It was abysmal, painful, brutal.

It was the worst performance of the Wizards since they became a playoff team two seasons ago.

There was no fight in the Wizards against the Trail Blazers on Fun Street yesterday.

There was no sense of urgency in the Wizards, no sense of professionalism, no sense of caring an iota in losing to the Trail Blazers 94-73.

The Wizards could not even mount the obligatory scoring run that falls short against a modest opponent that will not make the playoffs this season.

The Wizards could not sustain anything against the Trail Blazers because of their ineptitude and listlessness.

The sellout crowd of 20,173 went to see an NBA game, and a WNBA game broke out.

This was not about the Trail Blazers being vaguely competent. This was about the Wizards being stunningly inadequate.

And this was not one of those bad games that inevitably happens to a team in the course of an 82-game season.

There was something else in play with the Wizards here. This was a team that was out to lunch, out of focus, indifferent to the assignment before it.

This is a team that is huffing and puffing in the absence of Antawn Jamison, that is moving from the Poet-Brendan Haywood Smackdown III to the star player wondering aloud about the philosophy of Eddie Jordan.

Perhaps Gilbert Arenas did not intend to publicly question the renewed defensive emphasis of his coach following the eyesore.

Perhaps he was merely on one of his monologues that came across as ill-timed because of the stench emanating from the floor.

Yet this was no day to be talking about the “hibachi chilling at home, while we focus on defense.”

This was no day to be talking about one mistake on defense leading to a seat on the bench and the 10 players Jordan employed in the first quarter because of defensive lapses.

This was no day to act surprised by the news of the team going more than six minutes without scoring a point, starting late in the first quarter.

“For real?” Arenas said. “I didn’t know that. We were so focused on defense.”

Wherever the postgame questioning went, Arenas eventually distilled it down to the team’s commitment to defense, which implied it is hurting the offense.

“We are who we are,” Arenas said. “We go out there and blow teams out. We’re a running team. That’s what we do. I guess now we’re one of those offensive teams that has to hold teams down.”

Arenas certainly did not reach his vow of dumping 50 points on the Trail Blazers, stemming from his disappointing time with Nate McMillan and USA Basketball last summer.

In fact, the Wizards did not reach the 50-point mark until the fourth quarter, and Arenas ended up scoring nine points, the same number as seldom-used Donell Taylor in five-plus minutes.

Understandably, the normally restrained Jordan could not hide his disgust, despite waiting 15-20 minutes longer than usual before holding his press conference.

“That’s just plain stupid,” Jordan said of Arenas’ comments. “The whole idea of us having to play better defense — is that a problem or is that a question? That’s ludicrous.”

It was that kind of afternoon in Tony Cheng’s neighborhood.

It was a time to wonder whether the Wizards are imploding or have the resilience to pull things back together.

It was time to acknowledge that Jarvis Hayes is not the offensive answer in the absence of Jamison, that the bench contributed a grand total of two points in a combined 40 minutes in the first half.

The Wizards need to be more defensive-minded until Jamison returns to the lineup, as Jordan is preaching.

Yet his star player is resistant to it.

That is a problem.

Worse, Arenas has made it a problem in his mind, and that possibly has contributed to his shooting slump in the last five games.

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