History is repeating itself, to the chagrin of the struggling Wizards

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By Dan Steinberg
Thursday, March 25, 2010

On April 9, 1995, the Washington Bullets lost their 11th straight game, tying the longest stretch of failure since they'd moved to Washington. They weren't even buoyed by a postgame visit from draft prospect Jerry Stackhouse.

"It's hard," Chris Webber said at the time. "I've never felt this way about basketball in my life. Before, I felt that if you wake me up at 6 a.m., we could go shoot or something. If you wake me up at 6 now, there might be a fight."

Four days later, the Bullets committed nine turnovers in the first 10 minutes of a loss to the Atlanta Hawks. Richard Justice, writing in The Post, explained that players had become numb to the losses.

"I can't say I'll be disappointed when [the season's] over," said Webber, who guaranteed the team was "never going to sink like this again."

"The truth is, it's hard," Webber continued. "I don't want it to seem like I'm complaining. But losing like this wears on anyone. We're trying. We're still trying. But it's not enough."

The next night, it was a loss in the Garden to the Knicks, making it 13 in a row. That equaled the franchise mark for awfulness. Webber was angry.

"I won't ever lose 13 games in a row again -- ever," he said, guaranteeing the streak would stop at 13. "This is an embarrassment."

See, these are the things that happen when you threaten franchise records for futility. Players become angry, weary, numb, embarrassed. They try to figure out what the heck to say.

"We're better than 13 in a row," Webber said, despite all evidence to the contrary. "We didn't want the longest losing streak in Bullets history. We don't want to be remembered as the worst team in Bullets history. This is the worst loss of the season. Not that we haven't had a lot of tough ones. When you tie a record, that's embarrassing."

The modern-day Wizards are no doubt embarrassed, though nobody dared guarantee a win at Indiana on Wednesday night, a prescient move considering the Wizards did equal the franchise mark for futility with a 99-82 loss to the Pacers. Their embarrassment manifested itself Tuesday night in that nasty back and forth between Coach Flip Saunders and Andray Blatche; the coach said in his news conference that Blatche had refused three requests to enter the game and had quit on his teammates. Blatche disputed that account and requested an apology from Saunders during an appearance on Mike Wise's radio show.

"To abuse my name like that, that's disrespectful and that's hurtful," Blatche said.

Which all sent me for yet another spin through the archives. Just two months ago, I was scanning through the papers of 1984, the last time the Capitals had won 10 consecutive games before this season.

"These days, a Capitals game is a chanting, screaming circus -- a celebration by both fans and team of a release from years of humiliation," Thomas Boswell wrote back then. And since everything goes in cycles, Caps games are yet again the screaming circuses of 1984, and the Wizards are right there with those 1995 Bullets, trying to make sense of it all.

Those '95 Bullets, of course, snapped their losing streak at 13, just as Webber had guaranteed they would. They did it with Calbert Cheaney out with the flu, Don MacLean returning from an injured thumb, and Webber discovering optimism.

"We're young and have to learn how to win," he said after the streak ended. "That's what this game is about. It almost slipped away, and we got it back. I think we're going to get all right."

And the Bullets then split their final four games of the season.


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