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Bad gets worse

Well, if you didn't see today's hideous loss to Portland - and if you didn't buy a ticket you couldn't see it because it wasn't on TV - let me summarize Washington's worst performance of the season this way: no energy, terrible ball movement, screening, passing and shot selection. Utter failure to get back on defense, rotate to the open shooter, grab rebounds or hustle for loose balls. Gilbert Arenas was outplayed by Jarrett Jack. The big men were outrebounded and outhustled. Caron Butler had a rough shooting game (4-of-10) and finished with one rebound. The bench was abused by LaMarcus Aldridge and Juan Dixon. Andray Blatche didn't look ready for his first start and other than DeShawn, everyone played lousy today. The fans booed off and on throughout and really let the Wiz have it when they headed the lockeroom.

Things got worse after the game when Gilbert went on a bizzare Q and A exchange with reporters and basically blamed the loss on Eddie Jordan's emphasis on defense in his pre-game speech.

Among the highlights of Gilbert throwing his coach under the bus:
"It's easy to lose focus when you you're just drilling us that if we make a mistake we're going to be coming out. Truthfully, that's how you lose concentration. You lose focus because you're scared to actually play basketball. His standpoint is that since we lost Antawn, we have to pick it up somewhere else and that's defense."

When asked whether he planned on predicting high-scoring games in the future, Arenas turned sarcastic: "I guess I have to start predicting that I'll get 10 steals."

More Gilbert: "First period of the game we had what, 11 players go in? I've never seen that before. We get taken out for any mistake we make on defense. At the end of the day, it's hard to play like that. You figure to get beat. It's the NBA. Players are going to beat you, players are going to get offensive rebounds on you, players are going to make great plays. If you get penalized for it, you're out there playing like a robot."

After listening to this for awhile I asked Gilbert: "What does any of that have to do with going 1 for 15 from three-point range?"
Gilbert: "That has nothing to do with it but when you start the game off, we know we're going to blow this team out, you say okay, it's going to be an up and down game, get on your horse but when you go into a game and it's like okay, let's settle down, focus on defense, get back, don't get beat on backdoors, that's what you focus on. You try not to make any mistakes because you don't want to get taken out of the game."

Later, I said this to Gilbert: "It sounds like you're burying your coach here."
Gilbert: "Nah. Nah. It's on us because we have to actually go out there and do it. It's like what I was telling the team: we have to go out there and score. At the end of the day, for the last 10 games, everyone's scoring 100. They only scored 94 and they average 93. They still shot 50 percent and that's on us. I'm just saying: we have to go out there and play defense. That's what we're supposed to do."

If you can make sense of everything I just wrote above this sentence, congratulations because you have an advanced degree in Gilbertology. I have no idea what the cat is going to say at a given moment.

Needless to say, Eddie wasn't pleased which is understandable considering that Arenas was 0-of-8 from long range and looked completely out of it throughout.
"My reaction to that?" Jordan said. "That I emphasize defense? No reaction. Next question."
Later, Jordan added: "You guys approach me with what Gil said about defense. I don't know why you ask me that. It's stupid. Plain stupid. The whole idea of us asking them to play defense better. Is that a problem? It's ludicrous."

Jordan then made some indirect comments about Gilbert's leadership skills or lack thereof.

"First of all, we didn't have the leadership out there that we needed with Antawn out," Jordan said. "And no one else has stepped up into a leadership role. And frankly, we didn't have enough talent out there on the floor. Darius not being ready conditioning-wise and being in a rhythm, knowing what we do. Andray being young. Michael (Ruffin) being limited the way he is and just coming back for his first game. We just didn't get major production and we didn't make shots."

Eddie on not having Jamison's leadership: "It's very special, very special and Antawn has it. That's why he's the only captain on the team. I've tried to have main guys the last couple of years to be captains and it doesn't work because they don't have the qualities."

On Gilbert being a captain: "I don't want him to do it. He's not a leader right now. He's a scorer and our best player and you'd like your team to take the personality of your best player in a sense."

On the team struggling defensively without Antawn (a thought that was laughable a few weeks ago but suddenly on point for some weird reason): "Not with this team. It's always hard to play defense with this team with Antawn or without Antawn."

Bottom line: between Antawn's injury, the Etan/Brendan fight, the altered rotation that includes a raw kid who is learning (Blatche) and two guys who have been out all season (Songaila and Booth), this team is in trouble. My thought after Antawn's injury was that they'd be fine if they could go .500 without him. Now, I don't see that happening. Eddie's got his work cut out for him so perhaps it's a good thing that the All Star break is coming soon. Today was ugly all the way around.

By Ivan Carter  |  February 11, 2007; 8:20 PM ET
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Next: Players That Need To Get Dealt

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