Winless Washington Wizards Look to Repeat Their History

Washington's Caron Butler, left, grimaces after being cut on the eye by Orlando's Mickael Pietrus on Saturday.
Washington's Caron Butler, left, grimaces after being cut on the eye by Orlando's Mickael Pietrus on Saturday. (By Phelan M. Ebenhack -- Associated Pres)
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By Ivan Carter
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The Washington Wizards had just completed a 101-90 win at Atlanta last Nov. 11 when a relieved Coach Eddie Jordan emerged from the team's locker room to meet with reporters.

"Look, we needed this," Jordan said. "We all know that."

The victory not only provided some much-needed positive energy following a 0-5 start, it sparked a six-game winning streak that set the tone for a 43-win season and fourth consecutive playoff appearance.

One year and one day later, the Wizards are again 0-5 and hoping to avoid the worst start in franchise history when they host the Utah Jazz tonight at Verizon Center. And while no one associated with the team is panicking -- at least publicly -- the Wizards are fully aware that they are the only winless team remaining in the NBA.

While stressing the importance of the game after a spirited practice yesterday at Verizon Center, co-captain and two-time all-star forward Caron Butler said his teammates have not come close to questioning whether the team will remain competitive all season.

"Nah, never," Butler said. "There are too many games. If we are at this point a month from now and we are 0-20, I couldn't be as positive as I am right now. Now, we're cool. 0-20? Yeah, I'm in Tahiti mentally. But we're fine right now."

Still, 0-5 has been pretty ugly, as the Wizards have allowed an NBA-worst 108.8 points per game while opponents have shot an NBA-best 50.2 percent. The Wizards have lost close games (in overtime at Milwaukee) and they've been blown out (Saturday in Orlando).

They've lost when they missed a bunch of free throws (New Jersey and Milwaukee), when they've held a big fourth-quarter lead (Milwaukee), when they couldn't stop a hot player down the stretch (Detroit's Walter Herrmann) or faced a hot three-point shooting team (the Knicks).

Jordan isn't buying into the idea that his team has an advantage based on the way it rebounded from an 0-5 start last season.

"No, to the contrary," Jordan said. "I don't like starting two seasons off at 0-5. Looking back to last year we should've said, 'Look, we need to start off pretty good and not go 0-5 again.' But it's happened again and there's no comfort at all. It wears on you, but that's being in pro sports -- you have to find a way to get over it."

Jordan has good reason to feel that way because this team is different from the one that won six straight last November. For starters, Gilbert Arenas was a big part of the first three wins of that streak before re-injuring his surgically repaired left knee during a win at Minnesota on Nov. 16. Without the three-time all-star guard, they've often lacked playmaking and timely shot-making on offense, and without starting center Brendan Haywood, they have not consistently protected the basket and have lacked overall defensive cohesion.

Arenas finished with 18 points, 6 assists and 3 steals a year ago in Atlanta, had 30 points and 11 assists in a home win over Indiana and finished with 27 points, 8 assists and 4 steals in the win at Minnesota.

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