By Michael Lee
Saturday, March 27, 2010; D04
CHARLOTTE -- Gilbert Arenas may have reached closure and dodged jail time in his felony gun possession case on Friday, but the remaining ragtag collection of leftovers for the Washington Wizards continues to be trapped in this dreadful campaign -- and will have to wait a little longer before bringing this current losing streak to a resolution. The Wizards set a franchise record with their 14th consecutive loss with a 107-96 defeat to the Charlotte Bobcats on Friday night.
The Wizards have had to deal with injuries to key players -- and the season-ending suspension to Arenas -- but they had an unexpected issue on Friday as head athletic trainer Eric Waters was rushed to the hospital earlier in the day with appendicitis. "We've always got something going down with our team," Coach Flip Saunders said. "It's just one thing after another."
Saunders was already forced to utilize his 24th different lineup as he inserted Alonzo Gee and James Singleton in place of Al Thornton and JaVale McGee. Singleton received his start as a reward for grabbing a career-high 21 rebounds in Indiana two days before, while Gee got the nod with Thornton nursing a strained right hip flexor.
Gee stepped in and scored a career-high and team-leading 19 points and impressed the crowd with his high-flying acrobatics. Saunders said the team intends to keep Gee around for the remainder of the season.
"It's a great opportunity for me. I just wish we would've pulled the win out. I just want to win," said Gee, who joined the team on March 7 and has never won in the NBA. The Wizards have not won since Feb. 28 against the New Jersey Nets and will return home on Saturday to host the Utah Jazz, which defeated them by 23 points when the teams met nearly two weeks ago.
"It doesn't get any easier," Saunders said.
The Wizards (21-50) secured back-to-back 50-loss seasons for the first time since 1999-00 and 2000-01. They had some hope that the streak would come to an end when Nick Young made a turnaround jumper early in the fourth quarter to cap a 10-0 run that brought them to 85-81. The Bobcats scored the next six points, with Tyson Chandler providing an emphatic rebound dunk and later blocking Young's dunk attempt, sending him crashing to the floor.
Singleton had a fast-break dunk to bring the Wizards to 91-86 with 5 minutes 40 seconds remaining, but the Bobcats responded with a 14-0 run over the next four minutes, allowing the team that Michael Jordan owns to add misery to the franchise that banished him nearly seven years ago.
"They kick you while you're down," Shaun Livingston said. "When you're losing games like this, you got to find ways to win or you'll find ways to lose."
When the teams met on Tuesday, the Wizards' 95-86 overtime loss was overshadowed by Blatche's insubordination, as he refused to acknowledge Saunders after a substitution and ignored the pleas of assistants Gene Banks and Sam Cassell. Saunders, Blatche and President Ernie Grunfeld met after the game and Saunders decided to start him the next night. On Thursday, Blatche apologized for not handling the situation better.
Blatche was hoping to be the difference in helping the Wizards end their skid, calling this game a "must-win," but he was noticeably flustered after scoring 18 points.
"I don't have no excuse for us. It's starting to be the same story for us every game," Blatche said. 'We be around, but every time the fourth quarter comes, we just stop doing the things that kept us in the game or help us win. Until we learn to keep our composure in the fourth quarter, the same thing will continue to happen. It's sad to say [because] we're working hard. It's got to hurt. If it don't hurt, then you don't care."
Thornton made the three-pointer that forced overtime in the last meeting, but he wasn't sure when he will be able to return the court after injuring himself in Indiana. "This is one of those rare injuries," Thornton said. "It's tough to move. It's tough to put on pants in the morning. It's something I never had."
Losing Thornton was a huge blow considering that he replaced Josh Howard, who went down with a torn ACL on Feb. 22 after leading the Wizards to three wins in his four games with the team. The Wizards have lost 16 of 17 games without Howard in the lineup. "We just don't have enough," Saunders said.
On Thursday, Randy Foye said "enough is enough" with the losing streak and came off the bench to score 17 points. He is still hoping that the Wizards can put a stop to their suffering soon. Utah "really manhandled us the last time out," he said. "Now we got them on their home court and it's got to be something in the back of our heads, like, 'It's not going to happen again,' and bring it. Utah is not as good on the road as they are at home. We just got to see if that's true."