By Michael Lee
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, January 9, 2011; 12:18 AM
CHARLOTTE - As he made his way out of Time Warner Cable Arena on Saturday, Charlotte Bobcats owner Michael Jordan stopped in front of the visitors locker room, where he bumped into his former Chicago Bulls teammate Gene Banks. Banks, an assistant with the Washington Wizards, greeted Jordan with a handshake and hug, and Jordan immediately started talking trash.
After catching up briefly, and forcing Banks to chuckle, Jordan pulled away and stopped to add one more jab. "Oh yeah, thanks for the win," Jordan said. "Thanks very much. All I was thinking about was that you'd be [1-17] after tonight."
Jordan, the former Wizards player and executive, sat in his familiar seat near the Bobcats' bench and watched his team hand out a 104-89 beatdown to the NBA's worst road team. The Wizards are 0-18 on the road this season after yet another late-game collapse that featured terrible defensive lapses, questionable decisions and slumped shoulders.
They still are a long way from matching the NBA record of 29 straight road losses to start a season, but the continued failures aren't any less frustrating.
"It's just the story line it usually is," Kirk Hinrich said, shaking his head after scoring a team-high 18 points. "We're not very mentally tough. I don't know if we just go into games expecting things to go right and when things don't go right, we kind of hang our heads and we don't move on to the next play. That's why our road record is what it is. It's just a level of immaturity, I think."
There would be no carry-over from Wizards' performance at home against New Jersey the previous night, when they gave one of their more inspired defensive efforts of the season.
The venue changed from Verizon Center, which meant that the Wizards would only play well in short stints, with none of them coming when it mattered most.
The Wizards (9-26) rallied from a 12-point second-half deficit to take a 71-70 lead with 2 minutes 30 seconds left in the third period when Al Thornton made a driving layup. But the Wizards fell asleep from there, allowing the Bobcats to score the final seven points while they repeatedly made mistakes and lowered their heads.
After John Wall was called for a traveling violation, the Wizards walked back on defense and never paid attention as Bobcats guard Gerald Henderson sprinted past them to catch a pass from Stephen Jackson and make an uncontested dunk to give his team a 75-71 lead. The Bobcats eventually extended the lead to 18 points.
"Things like that," Thornton said. "Things like that shouldn't happen. At all."
But those blunders always seem to happen to the Wizards on the road. And each mistake on Saturday against the Bobcats was compounded by another dumbfounding error. Yi Jianlian was called for a three-second violation. Andray Blatche traveled, and then picked up a technical foul for arguing the call with officials. Nick Young drove inside, leaped, turned and threw the ball out of bounds. And JaVale McGee tried to chase down a missed jumper by Jackson that was about to go out of bounds, then threw the ball off Young's foot for a turnover.
McGee explained afterward that he only went after the ball because he heard a teammate yelling, "Go get it! Go get it!" But after McGee grabbed just one rebound, and got outplayed by former Wizards No. 1 overall Kwame Brown (nine points, four rebounds), Coach Flip Saunders determined that McGee's night was over at that instant.
"I told our guys, until we can fight through adversity, we'll never win on the road," Saunders said. "We let bad plays affect us, where all of a sudden, we hang our heads. It's like we didn't play with a purpose."
In his first professional game in his home state, Wall had 16 points and 11 assists, providing some highlights for his family and friends with whirling layups and two-handed dunks. But he also had trouble keeping up with D.J. Augustin, who had 20 points and nine assists for the Bobcats, who improved to 4-2 since Paul Silas replaced Hall of Famer Larry Brown as head coach, just two days after the Wizards romped the Bobcats, 108-75, at Verizon Center.
Jackson led all scorers with 21 points and added 10 rebounds as the Bobcats defeated the Wizards in Charlotte for the fifth game in a row.
The Wizards thought they had received a break with all-star forward Gerald Wallace, a player who historically causing problems against the team, missed his third game in a row with a sprained left ankle. But the Wizards obviously have a problem with any Bobcat named Gerald, as second-year guard Henderson provided a solid imitation, scored 19 points and limiting Young to just seven points on 3-of-8 shootingâ. After scoring 16 points to lead the Wizards to a 97-77 win over New Jersey, Lewis scored just four points on 1-of-5 shooting. Blatche had 10 points and a team-high eight rebounds, but he continues to struggle with his shot, as he finished just 4 for 13 from the floor.
"We knew they was coming out and wanted revenge," Wall said of the Bobcats. Wall added that he really wanted to end the Wizards' road woes in front of his hometown fans - and Jordan. "Michael Jordan is the greatest player ever, so it's great to have him there watching. I wish we would've come away with a win, our first road win. But we got to keep working and finally get one. We don't want to go the whole season without one."