- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Do not be fooled by the Wizards 124, Warriors 100 in Tony Cheng’s neighborhood on Tuesday night.

We now know the remedy for the ailing Wizards, and it was not a coaching change.

It was a team that plays worse defense than the Wizards. The Warriors came into the game with the second-worst defense in the NBA, just two places ahead of the defensively challenged Wizards.

Otherwise, the challenge before interim coach Ed Tapscott remains daunting.

His is change we cannot believe in at this point, not unless Tapscott has a magic wand in his bag of coaching tricks.

Tapscott wants to improve the defense and the physicality of the Wizards, which is fair enough.

Eddie Jordan was forever preaching defense during his tenure. He preached it to the point that Gilbert Arenas, in one famous instance, decided to neglect his offense and focus all his energies and attention on defense. After the loss, a clearly annoyed Arenas, in one of his out-of-body verbal excursions, discussed how it now was all about playing defense and blah, blah, blah.

The Jordan-Arenas dynamic was just one of the curious aspects of the team. Arenas knew that he became who he was in part because of the freedom he was allowed in Jordan’s system.

But Arenas, who lives on his own planet, did not always embrace the advice of Jordan or the assistant coaches. That included being committed to playing defense.

Now it is up to Tapscott to reach Arenas - if Arenas ever returns to duty.

Tapscott also must do lots of other hard work if he is to interest the Wizards in defense.

Tapscott must find a way to grant late growth spurts to both Dee Brown and Juan Dixon.

Brown, who is listed as a 6-footer, is closer to 5-10. He sometimes finds himself in compromising positions, such as being forced to defend either 6-5 Kelenna Azubuike or 6-8 Stephen Jackson in the first game of the post-Jordan era.

Dixon, as has been noted a zillion times, is a shooting guard trapped in the body of a point guard. It is not a stretch to say that both players possibly would not be in the NBA if not for their salary cap-friendly contracts, which appealed to the Wizards.

Tapscott also will need to encourage Antonio Daniels and Darius Songaila to get rid of their cement shoes. Perhaps if Daniels and Songaila are able to secure a pair of shoes that do not have cement in their soles, they will be able move better laterally and cut off ball-handlers looking to drive to the basket.

In a related assignment, Tapscott might want to implore Antawn Jamison to add 15 to 20 pounds of muscle, if only to be more physically capable against those who like the rough stuff.

Not that the two-time All-Star is allergic to contact. It is just that sometimes he is physically overmatched at power forward.

JaVale McGee, Nick Young, Dominic McGuire and Oleksiy Pecherov all need time to develop, and in Young’s case, it might behoove Tapscott to remove the blinders attached to Young’s head.

As Tapscott knows full well, blinders are for urban horses and not for a guard with four teammates on the floor.

Tapscott should explore the question of Andray Blatche’s work ethic as well. It is possible that everyone has it all wrong with Blatche. It is possible Blatche has a strong but misguided work ethic, which he exhibits on the city’s dance floors in the wee hours.

If so, Blatche should be informed that he probably is no Rod Strickland, the only player in franchise history able to dance and drink the night away before going to police lockup and then getting bail in time to drop 18 points and 11 assists on the opposition.

They do not make guards like Strickland anymore. He could find the open man with a blurry-eyed blood-alcohol content of 0.20, way over the legal driving limit, on and off the floor.

One last thing for Tapscott: He might pray for a return of good health, something the Wizards have not had the last 22 months.

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