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Tony Kornheiser

10 Wins? Are We In 2005 Already?

By Tony Kornheiser
Tuesday, December 7, 2004; Page D01

You'll excuse me if this column seems disjointed. I keep leaving my computer to look out the window, expecting to see pigs flying. That's the sign I'm looking for to explain what's happening with Les Boulez, whose record -- according to this newspaper -- is at this moment 10-5. Wow! Let's not all faint at once, because if we all hit the deck at the same time, the impact might be enough to knock Mitch Albom off the best-seller list.

I wasn't a math major, but I'm pretty sure if you're 10-5, that more or less blows your chances of being 9-20. (I just checked the newspaper again, and it still says the Wizards are 10-5. Hold on, let me check A2 for "Corrections.") It's been so long since the Wizards weren't 9-20 that it's hard to conceive of what might happen in terms of economic upheaval or geothermal cataclysm. The truth is, I can't remember the last time the Wizards weren't 9-20. But I think it was even before Barry Bonds started using steroids -- whoops, excuse me, flaxseed oil. (Suggested motto for flaxseed oil: "When your head is three times the size it used to be, you'll thank us.")

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Gilbert Arenas's game has matured and so to have the Wizards.
Tony Kornheiser: Maybe it's time to reconsider and begin watching the Wizards.
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You may want to sit down for this tidbit: If the NBA playoffs started today (and I strongly advocate that), the Wizards would not only be in them -- they would have home-court advantage. With Orlando losing in Denver last night, at this very moment the Wizards' record of 10-5 is, oh my God, THE BEST IN THE EASTERN CONFERENCE!!! So please, let's stop the regular season right now before the whole shebang goes bust.

(While I have your attention, let me state unequivocally that the following is an example of wishful thinking that I don't want to read or hear in the coming week: "You know, the way the Redskins played against the Giants, if they can do that against the Eagles on Sunday night, they can beat the Eagles, and that would put them at 5-8, and you know the NFC is brutally weak, and since the Redskins own tiebreakers against Tampa Bay, Chicago and Detroit, it's possible that they could go 8-8 and get into the play . . . " Stop it! Stop it! Don't even think it. I beg you, do not mention "Redskins" and "playoffs" together. No, no, 1,000 times no. See comment above on flying pigs. Thank you. Now back to Les Boulez.)

The Wizards have feasted on some dog teams, like New Jersey, Atlanta and the Chicago Bulls, in succession. And they haven't gone on an extended West Coast trip, where they're likely to get lumped up. But come on, they're 10-5! Do you have any idea when the last time was that they started 10-5? It was in 1974. Nixon was president -- or would have been had he not quit. Nixon! (To put that into some understandable, historical Wizards context: That was, like, soooo before Gar Heard.)

And, amazingly, it's possible this isn't a fluke. It's possible the Wizards are legitimately decent. They have two players -- Antawn Jamison and Gilbert Arenas -- averaging more than 20 points a game. A third player, Larry Hughes, is averaging 19. I don't know how this happened. And I don't care. Just don't wake me.

Seriously, is it the offense? Is it the defense? Is it the cream and the clear? (Oh, I really hope so. I'd love to see some team change its uniform colors to "cream" and "clear." That would be so much cooler than, say, garnet and pewter.) All I know is that in basketball, as in most sports, you win games by getting more points than your opponents. So after 30 years as a sportswriter, my expert advice to the Wizards is: "Keep doing that." You don't want to spoil a Cialis moment like this by over-analyzing it. And remember, it's rare, but if the Wizards are still over .500 in February, call your physician immediately.

Now, who should get credit for this (so far) stunning turn of events? Well, Michael Jordan brought a few of these guys in, most notably Hughes. But overwhelmingly the credit has to go to Ernie Grunfeld and Eddie Jordan. (And of course, to LaSooz for her "Singles Nights," which have taken the mystery out of squeezing the melons at Giant -- and put it in Section 116.) Grunfeld got rid of Jerry "Monday Through Monday" Stackhouse, and brought in Arenas and Jamison. And Jordan has coached the whole team, not just one player as his predecessor, Doug Collins, was hired to do. It's probably too early to write this, but Grunfeld and Eddie Jordan look like the best GM and coaching combo to hit Washington since that first blush of John Nash and Jimmy Lynam, when Chris Webber and Juwan Howard showed up simultaneously, and everyone thought happy days were here.

Excuse me, Tony, but you're getting dangerously close to being carried away. Don't you remember The Curse O' Les Boulez? You should. You identified it first. Can't you just feel something terrible is about to happen?

Ah, we all feel it. We all look at that 10-5 and say to ourselves, "Misprint." We're all expecting the bottom to drop out. The way Washingtonians root for the Wizards is like they did in Anatevka in czarist Russia: Hope for the best, expect the worst. Maybe Hughes will tear something. Arenas has shown knucklehead tendencies; maybe he'll space out. Maybe Kwame Brown's return will tip the delicate pH balance.

But in Antawn Jamison, the Wizards have the most reliable player they've had since that one incredible season Bernard King gave them in 1990-91. It's impossible to overstate what Jamison might mean here. First of all, he can score 25 points without taking 25 shots. Plus, he is a player and a leader the others can look up to -- particularly Arenas, who thinks of him as a big brother and counselor. At 28, Jamison doesn't seem to have the "issues" Webber and Howard had here. And he's right around his physical peak as a player. So, of course, he'll tear his ACL to ribbons tomorrow.


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