- The Washington Times - Friday, February 13, 2009

CHARLOTTE, N.C. | The Washington Wizards hobbled into the All-Star break with a consensus mood of relief.

After Wednesday’s loss at Charlotte, players hurriedly dressed, exchanged hugs, wished each other well and whisked off to their hometowns.

Nick Young and Dominic McGuire headed back to California, Mike James to Houston. Darius Songaila, whose offseason home is in North Carolina, said he was going hunting, and Antawn Jamison said he would spend the next two days at his home in Charlotte before taking his wife to the Bahamas.

“I need a break,” said Jamison, the team’s leading scorer and rebounder. “Refresh the batteries for the second half of the season, get refocused, positive energy. It’s been tough.”

His co-captain, Caron Butler, used a line normally reserved for Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks.

“I’m going to Disney World,” he said with a smile. “Spend some time with the family, get on a couple rides, air out a little bit, see what happens when we get back.”

Interim coach Ed Tapscott wasn’t quite as relieved about the four-day layoff.

“I would love to go back to practice tomorrow,” he said. “Right after any loss, what you want to do is fix the problem. And we’ve got a lot of problems. Like everybody else, I will certainly use this break to its advantage. But it matters deeply to me when we lose, and I want to start right away fixing the problems that caused us not to win.”

Tapscott considers time off good for his players but said, “I want to fix the problem now, but if I have to wait eight hours, I’ll wait eight hours. If I have to wait 12 - if I have to wait 120 hours - the problem’s still going to be there, and I’m ready to get on fixing the problems.”

The problems abound. At 11-42, the Wizards remain as downtrodden, battered and bruised as ever.

The majority of the deficiencies that led to Washington owning the Eastern Conference’s worst record at the All-Star break are a result of injuries and inexperience. Guards Gilbert Arenas and DeShawn Stevenson and centers Brendan Haywood, Andray Blatche and Etan Thomas remain sidelined. The injuries mean the Wizards lack a consistent closer in Arenas, a veteran defender in Stevenson, their best defensive presence in the paint in Haywood and complementary pieces in Blatche and Thomas.

Washington hopes some or all of those players could come back before season’s end. Blatche is likely the closest to returning; he wanted to play Sunday against Indiana but was held out to recover more fully.

As far as the Wizards’ young players go, Butler issued them a challenge.

“Now it’s time to turn the corner as a player,” he said. “This league is about mano a mano. Every night you’re going to have someone in your face, [so] you’ve got to challenge yourself. Now we’ve got to bring it. Go home, clear your mind, get some good thoughts in - come back and work hard.”

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