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Posted at 1:01 PM ET, 02/ 2/2011

Why I missed last night's game

By Michael Lee

I wasn't around for the 25th installment of the Wizards Road Woes, but it wasn't for lack of trying. I had a travel day that was akin to most of the Wizards' games away from Verizon Center -- a rough start, some questionable calls, some disappointment and a decent rally to make it interesting until the inevitable collapse.

By the time my plane finally touched down on Tuesday in New Orleans, ending almost 14 hours of being held hostage at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, the Wizards were three minutes away from a completing a 97-89 loss to the Hornets.

I contemplated making a last ditch effort to hop in a cab and catch up with the team, but I'll tell you later why I changed my mind. Let me give you the rundown of an unexpected travel nightmare caused by inclement weather in Dallas.

In my nine years covering the league, I've had more terrible travel adventures -- including a trip this season where mechanical problems, a gas leak, weather delays and a late arriving flight crew meant that I got home 12 hours later than I was supposed to -- but I can only recall one time when I was forced to miss a game that unfolded without me in attendance.

It happened my first year covering the Wizards when a winter storm shut down nearly every airport east of the Mississippi and I missed one of the best games of the season, with Antawn Jamison hitting a game-winning floater as time expired in Indiana.

When I looked at the schedule, the last place I was expecting to have trouble because of a winter storm was during the back-to-back from Dallas to New Orleans. I know Dallas gets hit with bad weather from time to time, but I was more concerned about mid-January trips out of Milwaukee and Minneapolis.

But after waking up at 4:30 a.m., packing, getting ready, and driving to the airport through ice, slush and snow, I realize where I made a mistake: When it comes to handling bad winter storms, my folks in the upper Midwest are pros. They can clear 10, 12 inches and be ready for breakfast. Dallas, not so much.

I didn't see one snow plow or salt truck on the 19-mile drive from my hotel to the airport; just a bunch of cars and trucks driving about 30 miles an hour, clumsily trying to maneuver through make-believe lanes. It took me about 45 minutes to get to the rental car place, where the shuttles were shut down because, as the driver explained, "there's been a bunch of accidents and they don't want to give us clearance yet."

Realizing that I wasn't going to make my 7 a.m. flight, I called American Airlines to get booked on the next flight. After being on hold for about 40 minutes -- or by the time my shuttle driver got clearance to take us to our gates -- I finally got an agent who told me that my flight was canceled and they would put me on a 2:30 p.m. flight that would get me in around 4 p.m. I knew I had to get to the arena by 5:30 p.m. for pre-game interviews, so I tried to map out a way that I could get to my hotel, and change clothes so that I wouldn't have to cover the game in my Florida A&M sweatshirt.

Since I was running on little sleep, I found some leather seats and took a little nap. I woke up, had breakfast at a Mexican restaurant, wrote a blog post about Yi Jianlian, and decided to check on how my next flight was going. I looked up at the board and saw that it was canceled. I don't like to cuss, but I might have said something inappropriate at that moment. If I had made a John Wall agreement, I would've received a few $50 fines as well.

I ran to a ticket counter to see what was going on, and they explained that there was only one runway, so a lot of flights were being canceled. People around me were booking hotel rooms. One guy next to me had to "settle" for a $450 room at the DFW Hyatt. "They must have money to burn," the ticket agent told me as she tried to get me on a flight to New Orleans.

After checking her computer for a few minutes, she said she could get me on a 6:35 flight that would get me to New Orleans by 8. I told her that wasn't going to work because I'm a sportswriter and I had to get there to cover a basketball game at 7.

"They can't wait for you?" she asked, seriously, as she looked from behind square-shaped glasses.

"No," I told her, unable to contain my laughter.

The woman told me that there was a Continental flight that connected in Houston and would get me in by 6. I didn't have many options, so I told her to do that, realizing that I was likely going to have to cover my first game in a FAMU sweatshirt. She told me that she would have to call Continental to get me on, but in the process of waiting on the phone for an agent, the flight to Houston got fully booked, leaving me out of luck.

I suppose it could've been worse. A woman next to me started weeping uncontrollably when she discovered that she and her husband couldn't leave for their anniversary trip to Cabo San Lucas. It was pretty sad, since the couple was dressed in flip-flops and shorts on a day that it was 22 degrees outside.

But, guess what? I had to take the 6:35 flight and hope that I'd get to New Orleans Arena by halftime or in the third quarter. Just in case this was going to be the night that the Wizards finally won a road game, I wanted to at least be in the locker room when they uncorked the champagne bottles or had Gatorade showers to celebrate. Since I wasn't wearing a suit, as usual, it could work.

With a lot of time to kill, I ate lunch at a different Mexican restaurant, wrote a few more blog posts and waited anxiously. By this point, I was more determined to leave Dallas than anything else, as if seeing the Cowboys team shop everywhere I went didn't make me nauseous enough. I felt like Dwyane Wade in that T-Mobile commercial, "Get me outta here!"

We finally started boarding and I was beginning to calm down as I grabbed my window seat. Then, suddenly, the pilot made an announcement that our flight was going to be delayed for at least another hour: The lights on the only available runway had gone out. So they had to clear another runway, which made me wonder why that couldn't have happened earlier since it had stopped snowing before 11 a.m. One runway?

I was really upset at this point, because all I could think about was Jamison's floater. I just knew this would be the night when the misery would cease, because I couldn't make it, and it made me even more determined to get out of Dallas. We didn't finally get clearance to leave until 8 p.m., but I had to pump my fists as we took off, even after we rocked a bit on the way up. When I landed in New Orleans, I sent out a Twitter request to get an update on how the game unfolded from Wizards fans.

I got some good responses, and I had plenty of time to respond to those tweets -- because when I got to baggage claim, I found out that American Airlines never put my suitcase on the plane. I guess they didn't have enough time, since I was only at the airport for 14 hours.

Several other people didn't get their bags either, which forced me to wait in line for nearly an hour before I could tell them to ship my luggage back home to D.C. It also made irrelevant any thoughts of rushing for some futile attempt to talk to the team.

I had been looking forward to traveling to New Orleans for a while, because it is one of my favorite places to eat. I was wondering if I was going to get some beignets, a shrimp Po'boy sandwich, some shrimp or crawfish etouffee or maybe, some seafood gumbo and top it off with some bread pudding. I was ready to throw down. But despite bad weather keeping me down, I decided to order a Po'boy from my hotel room service. I ate it as I watched highlights of the Wizards' loss to the Hornets. The sandwich was great.

The Wizards, not so much.

So, you never got a game story from me, explaining how the Wizards let Jason Smith go off for a career high, or a post-game blog entry explaining how Keyon Dooling, Darrelll Arthur, and other unheralded players have done it before, so I apologize. Just know that I tried. And, like the Wizards in their first 25 road games this season, I failed (although it wasn't my fault).

I finally made it home, still wearing the same sweatshirt.

By Michael Lee  | February 2, 2011; 1:01 PM ET
 
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Comments

Unlike what should happen to Ernie and Flip, someone at the Post, please FREE Michael Lee!

He's too good to be stuck covering this team.

. . . it is a paying gig, though.

Posted by: MikeNelmsReturns | February 2, 2011 1:16 PM | Report abuse

you didn't miss much michael lee. I shoulda skipped this game too on tv.

Posted by: jefferu | February 2, 2011 1:20 PM | Report abuse

Guess what, they lost.

Posted by: AllDCSports | February 2, 2011 1:33 PM | Report abuse

I've driven from New Orleans to Dallas. It isn't that far. Houston has an airport and Amtrak to New Orleans, and is only about 4 hrs. from Dallas. And then there's always the bus. Pretty wimpy Michael Lee. Good thing you aren't a war correspondent.

Posted by: djnnnou | February 2, 2011 1:45 PM | Report abuse

"• Why Twitter is great: Michael Lee of The Washington Post, sitting in press row for the Dallas-Washington game Monday, tweeted about Nick Young’s taunting the Dallas bench with shouts of “All day!” after making a second-half jumper. Young was 6-of-16 at the time and finished 6-of-20. Young’s having a nice year, but he’s getting a little carried away with the undisciplined chucking lately."

http://nba-point-forward.si.com/2011/02/01/court-vision-the-latest-around-the-league-47/

Posted by: kalo_rama | February 2, 2011 2:28 PM | Report abuse

MORE IMPORTANTLY WHERE HAS DC_MAN88 BEEN?!

We're 0 for 25 away, JWoww bout to hit a wall, Flip job possibly in question, and we just signed Tupac!!

COME OUT COME OUT WHEREVER YOU ARE.

Sincerely,
Les Boulez Prophet III

Posted by: prescrunk | February 2, 2011 2:34 PM | Report abuse

Nick Young’s taunting the Dallas bench with shouts of “All day!”

I saw Blatche jawing at the Dallas bench, and someone(pretty sure it was Haywood) yelled, "Then lift some weights!"

Posted by: djnnnou | February 2, 2011 2:37 PM | Report abuse

"• Why Twitter is great: Michael Lee of The Washington Post, sitting in press row for the Dallas-Washington game Monday, tweeted about Nick Young’s taunting the Dallas bench with shouts of “All day!” after making a second-half jumper. Young was 6-of-16 at the time and finished 6-of-20. Young’s having a nice year, but he’s getting a little carried away with the undisciplined chucking lately."

http://nba-point-forward.si.com/2011/02/01/court-vision-the-latest-around-the-league-47/

Posted by: kalo_rama | February 2, 2011 2:28 PM | Report abuse

i would like to see my man reign it in a lil bit. Seems like he's still finding what works for him, mixing dribble drives with catch and shoots, trying to find open spaces on the court without the ball and without a screen. He's been forcing it more recently though and really pressing. I think it'll be a good learning experience for him. If he gets a lil more help when the double teams come (either guys coming to the ball, or him doing some more film study to learn when and how to find guys) he can cut down on TOs and some bad shots. I like that he's finding ways to get to the line by driving, refs aren't gonna bail out a jumpshooter with no rep. But to your original point from the link,Young Nick needs to cut back on the chucking a bit.

Posted by: lilhollywood10 | February 2, 2011 2:47 PM | Report abuse

Mike, here's what you missed last night: Nick Young scoring 30 points, or more, for the 5th time this season. Come to think of it, Nick Young and Gilbert Arenas have been the only Bullets to score 30 or more this season. But you sure wouldn't know it from the hatred that Nick is receiving from some posters today.

Posted by: musicmanjr | February 2, 2011 3:14 PM | Report abuse

"Why I Missed Last Night's Game"

What game?

Posted by: Samson151 | February 2, 2011 3:25 PM | Report abuse

"And then there's always the bus. Pretty wimpy Michael Lee. Good thing you aren't a war correspondent."Posted by: djnnnou

Nobody associated with the Wizards voluntarily gets anywhere near the underside of a bus. Why tempt fate?

Posted by: Samson151 | February 2, 2011 3:27 PM | Report abuse

My testimonial:

Maybe I watch the Wizards for different reasons. THIS season isn't about wins and losses as much as HOW they play, and if the young players show improvement.

When I see people complain about us losing games this season...it's almost like WHAT DID YOU EXPECT?

Nick....better. JaVale...little better. I like what Wall brings and CAN bring. I like Booker and Seraphin. I like what Yi can bring in spots...too bad AB too a big step back. I just really hope the divi man crush curse doesn't transfer from Blatche to Nick next season...just kidding...but seriously....

Truth is...I wouldn't feel any better about the team if they were 3-22 or 4-21 on the road. I'm more concerned with individual development and cohesion between those players. 4 of the young guys are starting and playing big minutes.

I'm not as concerned with Flip and EG...I believe they're competent...some disagree cool.

Just my thoughts.

Posted by: SDMDTSU | February 2, 2011 3:32 PM | Report abuse

"Truth is...I wouldn't feel any better about the team if they were 3-22 or 4-21 on the road. I'm more concerned with individual development and cohesion between those players. 4 of the young guys are starting and playing big minutes." Posted by: SDMDTSU

I have to agree. What are you supposed to do with an inexperienced, losing NBA club but treat the second half of the season like an extended training camp? And that's clearly what they're doing.

The Wiz are already thinking about next year. And they should be.

Posted by: Samson151 | February 2, 2011 3:40 PM | Report abuse

Claps I feel your frustration.

I hate traveling, especially DFW.

Posted by: dcinmd1 | February 2, 2011 3:42 PM | Report abuse

WOW, this is a great "Being Mike Lee" story. Before I go any further, I forgive you Mike Lee. Hope you didn't miss the love about your "outstanding" lines posted by KTV1, only hope he files this one right next to the others he love so much especially the NY 360 lay up.

"They can't wait for you?" Is what I was thinking as I read this post and wondered WHERE IN THE H**L IS MIKE LEE. Hope you decided to have the gumbo but otherwise, I could care less about "WHY" you missed the game. Heck, all I really needed to hear was that Mike Lee missed the game due to the bad weather conditions in the midwest PERIOD! I'm just glad you made it home safely.

KTV1, how can you not love this posting? File it along with the other GREAT ones.

Thank You!

Posted by: zack9633 | February 2, 2011 3:46 PM | Report abuse

Truth is...I wouldn't feel any better about the team if they were 3-22 or 4-21 on the road.

That's where you and I differ. 3-22 or 4-21 indicates that you are at least capable of winning on the road. 0-25 reeks of incompentance. 0-25 gets you mentioned on David Letterman.

Posted by: musicmanjr | February 2, 2011 3:49 PM | Report abuse

Truth is...I wouldn't feel any better about the team if they were 3-22 or 4-21 on the road.

That's where you and I differ. 3-22 or 4-21 indicates that you are at least capable of winning on the road. 0-25 reeks of incompentance. 0-25 gets you mentioned on David Letterman.

Posted by: musicmanjr | February 2, 2011 3:49 PM | Report abuse

That's part of rebuilding...losing. LEARNING how to win on the road. It's not that they aren't capable...they crack in the 4th quarter. Damn that...they CRUMBLE. But when the majority of your team is as young as they are...it's going to happen.

0-25 on the road mean they're 13-10 at home. With wins over some top teams and last season loses against Orlando and Miami.

That's encouraging to me as well.

13-35 says enough about them. I wouldn't feel better about 16-32 either. Who gives a damn about David Letterman? They have a bunch of young pieces learning how to play in the NBA and learning how to play together. Worrying about the record right now isn't my #1 concern.

Posted by: SDMDTSU | February 2, 2011 4:02 PM | Report abuse

"Would you ......have ARENAS back."

H*LL NO!!!!!!! Loathing is too mild a word!!!!!!!

Posted by: glawrence007 | February 2, 2011 4:04 PM | Report abuse

"......0-25 gets you mentioned on David Letterman......." musicmanjr

How about 0-42?

Posted by: glawrence007 | February 2, 2011 4:05 PM | Report abuse

4-21 road record means on fringes of the 8th seed with the whole organization legitimately talking playoffs in Wall's first year. It means every win or loss COUNTING rather than being written off to "Oh, we're trying to do a few things for 2yrs from now" and other lame ass excuses when the team doesnt show up- like they didnt in the first 10mins of last night's game.

It means a whole different level of accountability for everyone, rather than "Hey, we're rebuilding, this is how it's supposed to be." 0-25 on the road is not how it's supposed to be, actually it's historically bad.

So yeah, I'd take 4-21 over being a national joke of an organization.

Posted by: divi3 | February 2, 2011 4:07 PM | Report abuse

I'm not concerned with 0-25 because when they win one....they're just 1-whatever...and the story goes away. Doesn't make them any better or worse or any more capable or competent on the road.

Just means they finally got one.

They'll still be young with a terrible record the next day.

Posted by: SDMDTSU | February 2, 2011 4:08 PM | Report abuse

It's not that they aren't capable...they crack in the 4th quarter. Damn that...they CRUMBLE.

Are they capable before they actually do it? 0-25 is plenty of chances.

But when the majority of your team is as young as they are...it's going to happen.

Nick is what, 26? Kirk is 30. Rashard is 30. Dray is a 6yr vet. Flip is Mr.50 win, super experienced, supposedly take vets to Finals coach.

IMO, their total lack of ability to play well on the road speaks to progression NOT happening. Rebuilding isnt happening just because a team is terrible. Until you can see progress occurring, they're just a crap team.

If they were consistently playing with effort and seemed to be establishing some sort of identity, I wouldnt care about 0-25....of course they wouldnt be 0-25 if they were doing that.

Posted by: divi3 | February 2, 2011 4:16 PM | Report abuse

I'm not concerned with 0-25 because when they win one....they're just 1-whatever...and the story goes away. Doesn't make them any better or worse or any more capable or competent on the road.

Would 0-41 concern you?

Posted by: divi3 | February 2, 2011 4:17 PM | Report abuse

It means a whole different level of accountability for everyone, rather than "Hey, we're rebuilding, this is how it's supposed to be." 0-25 on the road is not how it's supposed to be, actually it's historically bad.

So yeah, I'd take 4-21 over being a national joke of an organization.

Posted by: divi3 | February 2, 2011 4:07 PM | Report abuse

Yeah...nobody said it's how it's "supposed" to be. It sucks...but at the end of the day...it doesn't damn matter. The goal of finally winning ONE away game isn't as important to me as them getting better as a team.

I think we'd all take 4-21 over 0-25...but like I said...at the end of the day...they would still be a bad team.

If 4 games on this season mean accountability to you...cool.

Like I said...you're looking at playoffs. I'm not. Playoffs doesn't mean much for this team. The games count anyway...and nobody is like let's just try something for two years ago.

Young players have to learn. Always have...always will.

Posted by: SDMDTSU | February 2, 2011 4:20 PM | Report abuse

But when the majority of your team is as young as they are...it's going to happen.

Nick is what, 26? Kirk is 30. Rashard is 30. Dray is a 6yr vet. Flip is Mr.50 win, super experienced, supposedly take vets to Finals coach.

Read the bolded word. This is a new situaton for Nick...so he's learning too. He's going through what Dray went through in the second half. I'm not concerned with Lewis and Hinrich. They aren't the future of this team. The young players should learn what they can from them and they will move on. Flip wins 50 games with 50 win rosters. This is not one of them.

IMO, their total lack of ability to play well on the road speaks to progression NOT happening. Rebuilding isnt happening just because a team is terrible. Until you can see progress occurring, they're just a crap team.

Oh so you don't see progress? That's cool. Remember that the next time you're drooling over Nick and JaVale ready to grab your ankles like you were last season for Dray.

Like I said...we're watching for two different reasons apparently.

Posted by: SDMDTSU | February 2, 2011 4:36 PM | Report abuse

Yeah...only majority was supposed to be bolded. But whatever.

Posted by: SDMDTSU | February 2, 2011 4:38 PM | Report abuse

This team isn't showing any more than when Tapscott was coaching them. Rashard Lewis is temporary and only getting major minutes so he can show something to be picked up by a contender, Please anyone tell me he is worth his contract. He really hasn't added anything to this teams chances of winning. The guards outrebound him. It is a shame that Saunders isn't playing JMac more to develop him. Finally this team has zero personality. No offense to Yi but every game looks like a Chinese Fire Drill. You can only blame the players so much. Charlotte figured that out and so did Indiannapolis.

Posted by: bobilly1 | February 2, 2011 4:38 PM | Report abuse

Remember that the next time you're drooling over Nick and JaVale ready to grab your ankles like you were last season for Dray.

Is that really necessary? You can go f*%k yourself for all I care. There's really no reason to insult each other.

Posted by: divi3 | February 2, 2011 4:47 PM | Report abuse

yall are gettin it in over here. Been goin at it with Jonesy 2 threads back. clearly i shoulda got with this thread.


Flip wins 50 games with 50 win rosters. This is not one of them. posted by SDMDTSU
@SDMDTSU,
When will we have a "50 win roster" assembled? OKC is in their 3rd yr and second City with KD. They've made it to the playoffs once since he was drafted,and exited in the first round. This is the model we are trying to follow. OKC as great a model as they may be, still hasn't won anything. I'm just starting to wonder how long will Flip be coaching this team . I mean i can't imagine the Wiz jumping into the top 4 in the east in the next 2 seasons, and the last guy lost his job for only managing to make it to the second round. How long will we have to wait for these 50 wins, and then does Flip have what it takes to win a title?

Posted by: lilhollywood10 | February 2, 2011 5:13 PM | Report abuse

"4-21 road record means on fringes of the 8th seed with the whole organization legitimately talking playoffs in Wall's first year. It means every win or loss COUNTING rather than being written off to "Oh, we're trying to do a few things for 2yrs from now" and other lame ass excuses when the team doesnt show up- like they didnt in the first 10mins of last night's game.It means a whole different level of accountability for everyone, rather than "Hey, we're rebuilding, this is how it's supposed to be." 0-25 on the road is not how it's supposed to be, actually it's historically bad.So yeah, I'd take 4-21 over being a national joke of an organization.Posted by: divi3"

Hold the dramatics, please. 3-22 or 4-21 on the road means nothing if you lost an extra three or four games at Verizon.

Which could easily have happened. Don't forget those two unlikely wins against Philly (you can bet the Sixers are still kicking themselves over it). Don't forget other games that could have gone to the away team.

The Wiz were projected to finish with somewhere in the neighborhood of 19-20 victories. Most so-called 'power' rankings had them listed among the four or five worst clubs in the NBA -- along with Eastern Conference powers New Jersey, Toronto, and Cleveland, as well as Sacramento and Minnesota from the West.

Here are the victory totals as of today:
Nets: 15
Wizards: 13
Raptors: 13
Kings: 12
T'wolves: 11
Cavs: 8

So they're not far off expectation. This last road trip and the games coming up this week is about the hardest they've seen to date. They were hoping to steal a road win; they didn't. They could also lose all three of the home contests.

Here's the reality: even if the Wiz weren't a 'national joke' because of WHERE they lost, they'd still be a lousy basketball team.

Posted by: Samson151 | February 2, 2011 5:17 PM | Report abuse

But of course, admitting the Wiz are basically a weak team makes it harder to justify an ill-timed change at head coach.

Every time you fire the head coach during the season, the best candidates file that away for future reference, under 'can't trust management to stand behind you'.

Posted by: Samson151 | February 2, 2011 5:24 PM | Report abuse

Every time you fire the head coach during the season, the best candidates file that away for future reference, under 'can't trust management to stand behind you'.

Posted by: Samson151 | February 2, 2011 5:24 PM | Report abuse

Eddie Jordan Syndrome

Posted by: lilhollywood10 | February 2, 2011 5:29 PM | Report abuse

But of course, admitting the Wiz are basically a weak team makes it harder to justify an ill-timed change at head coach.

Where is anyone saying the Wizards arent a weak team? Obviously they are, and no coach would change that- not drastically anyway.

The question re:Flip concerns if the team and players show enough progress to justify him staying on next season or the one after. He's being evaluated just as the players are.

Posted by: divi3 | February 2, 2011 5:41 PM | Report abuse

Is that really necessary? You can go f*%k yourself for all I care. There's really no reason to insult each other.

Posted by: divi3 | February 2, 2011 4:47 PM | Report abuse

Eh. I thought it was funny. Oh well.

Posted by: SDMDTSU | February 2, 2011 5:52 PM | Report abuse

"The question re:Flip concerns if the team and players show enough progress to justify him staying on next season or the one after. He's being evaluated just as the players are.
Posted by: divi3"

That would be more persuasive if you hadn't made up your mind about him months ago.

Posted by: Samson151 | February 2, 2011 5:55 PM | Report abuse

Word is that Herb Simon has already selected the next head coach for the Pacers: Mike Brown. Bird should leave at the end of the season, while the leaving's good. Herb's going to run the team for the immediate future, using the rationale: "I can't be any worse than these numbskulls."

Posted by: Samson151 | February 2, 2011 5:58 PM | Report abuse

with that "diet" of yours, you're gonna get ulcers before the Wiz win an away game.

Posted by: member8 | February 3, 2011 9:31 AM | Report abuse

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