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The Wizards' Painful Lessons

I'm sure people are still trying to figure out why Coach Eddie Jordan decided to give DeShawn Stevenson the ball on the biggest possession of the Wizards' 96-92 loss against New Jersey last night - even though Stevenson couldn't hit nearly anything he put up and spent most of the night struggling with foul trouble.

But with the Wizards trailing 90-89 - and after Stevenson had thrown up a brick on the previous possession - Jordan gave him an opportunity to do something coming out of a timeout. The end result wasn't pretty, as Stevenson drove to the basket and attempted to draw a foul on Jason Kidd, but threw up an off-balanced shot that went sideways. I asked Jordan what the play was afterward. He said that the Nets had cut off driving lanes from baseline, but they hadn't proven that they could halt penetration from the top of the key. He added that the play was designed for Stevenson. "I thought he did a good job," Jordan said. "I thought he got bumped, but the refs didn't think that."

Stevenson handed out "I Can't Feel My Face" T-shirts to fans at Verizon Center last night, but he should've handed out "I Can't Hear The Whistle" T-shirts. He complained after the game that he didn't get calls because of his name, but there wasn't enough contact to warrant a foul in those situations - especially when Stevenson hadn't established himself as an aggressor throughout the course of the game. Kidd played him perfectly. It was obvious that Stevenson wasn't trying to score on both possessions and the officials weren't going to bail him out.

I was kicking myself afterward for not asking Jordan why Antawn Jamison didn't get the big shot - or why Antonio Daniels -- the Wizards best player with the ball in his hands without Gilbert Arenas and Caron Butler -- wasn't called to create off the dribble. But when I woke up, I realized that Jordan is probably just trying to figure out what can work with this team. For the first five months of the season, Jordan could just hand the ball to Arenas and let him rescue the Wizards. In many ways, Arenas's heroics masked the Wizards' flaws. They don't have that going for them anymore.

Before last night, Jordan never really knew what Stevenson was capable of, because Arenas always got the ball at the end of games, and he usually produced by drawing a foul, or getting to the cup for a layup. After last night, Jordan knows going into the postseason that he might want to use another option - or Stevenson might think about trying to make the shot instead of initiating some contact. Until the Wizards get a win, the process of figuring out what works will lead to a few "cover-your-eyes" moments like last night.

In the locker room afterward, the players described the feeling of making the postseason despite losing their fifth game in a row was "bittersweet." It sort of feels bad going into that locker room after losses, because you know they are aware of how miserable the situation is, but they are entitled to be professionals and say the right things. Jamison spoke of staying positive, even at a time when teams are angling to get them in the playoffs and the Nets are starting to close the gap for the sixth seed. "It's going to come," Jamison said of the elusive victory. "We'll get a couple. We're going to start rolling."

Rolling? I can see a win or two the rest of the way, but rolling? I honestly think that Jamison believes what he is saying, no matter how silly it may sound. He was pretty convincing, even if he was merely trying to convince himself. "The overall goal is to make [the playoffs]," Jamison said. "It's unfortunate what has happened the last month or so. [But] we're going to represent this city and this organization well once we get started. We got five more to go. Just because we made it to the playoffs, it doesn't mean the hunger is not there. We're going to continue to fight."

But when will the Wizards get a win? Has a team ever entered the postseason losing 10 games in a row? Let's hope we don't have to research that one.

By Michael Lee  |  April 11, 2007; 9:11 AM ET
 
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