- The Washington Times - Monday, November 24, 2008

The Washington Wizards knew they faced a bumpy road without injured leading scorer Gilbert Arenas and center Brendan Haywood.

Washington expected to take some early lumps as young players like second-year guard Nick Young and rookie center JaVale McGee matured. But the second-worst record in the NBA? A 1-10 mark that includes seven fourth-quarter collapses for a team that, without Arenas for 69 games last season, reached the playoffs as a No. 5 seed?

This is beyond unexpected, and what’s worse, the Wizards continue to search for answers but remain unable to find them.

“Not in our wildest dreams did we ever think we would be 1-10, and now how do you handle that?” coach Eddie Jordan said after a 122-117 loss to a seven-man New York Knicks squad on Saturday. “I wish I could give them a manual on how you stay poised, how you suck it up, how you stay positive. I can’t find a manual like that yet.

“But again, I reiterated, we don’t have losing habits. And that’s a big thing for us. You respect the game. You play hard. You help your teammate. You protect your teammate. You play with confidence. You understand what the coaches are telling you, try to follow directions. We have all that. We just haven’t won.”

Staying united, positive and confident is critical, the Wizards said. And while they can’t figure out why, despite having All-Stars Antawn Jamison and Caron Butler, they are unable to come through in the clutch, the Wizards believe that if they keep plugging along with the same dedication and determination, eventually they will break through.

“We’ve got good guys,” said guard DeShawn Stevenson, a member of the Orlando Magic team that started 1-19 in 2003-04 and was plagued by dissension. “You would never think in training camp that we’d be in this situation, but we don’t have the type of guys that are negative and selfish. We just can’t get to where we want to be.”

The offense has been a problem for the Wizards. Although Jamison is averaging 20.3 points and Butler 20.2, Young (13.4) is the only other double-digit scorer.

At 92.4 points a game, the Wizards entered Sunday ranked 27th in scoring and are shooting 43.2 percent from the field, 23rd in the NBA. Only three teams give up more points a game than Washington’s 103.5; only two let opponents shoot better than the 47.2 percent the Wizards are allowing.

Some of the gaffes can be blamed on inexperience as the youngest Wizards are trying to grasp the team’s strategies, but the reason for the poor play as a whole remains a mystery.

“I have no idea,” Jamison admitted. “I have no idea.”

The Wizards are fighting hard to remain positive. Drawing on last season’s experiences, they still believe they can rebound. And citing the fact that six of their losses have been by eight or fewer points, they believe if they can manage to pinpoint the problems that are crippling them, things can take a turn for the better.

“We’re a way better team than our record is,” Darius Songaila said. “Maybe with the exception of a couple of the games that we lost by a bigger margin, we were there every game. We’ve just got to put it together [for] 48 minutes because 46 ain’t gonna cut it.”

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