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Wizards Aren't Pleased to Be on Road for Inauguration

Caron Butler is among a handful of Wizards players and coaches who are openly disappointed about missing Barack Obama's Presidential Inauguration Tuesday.
Caron Butler is among a handful of Wizards players and coaches who are openly disappointed about missing Barack Obama's Presidential Inauguration Tuesday. (Jonathan Ernst - Reuters)
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Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, January 19, 2009; Page D04

When Barack Obama makes history tomorrow, the Washington Wizards will be in the Bay Area hoping to catch a glimpse of his inauguration on television in their hotel rooms.

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The Wizards open a four-game road trip against Golden State this afternoon and will miss the festivities that have been taking place only a short walk from where they earn a living at Verizon Center.

Coaches and players are seldom excited to pack their bags and hit the road for a long trip, and that is especially the case this week with so much going on back at home.

"There certainly is a sense that, boy, it would be nice to be here and participate and see this event, but at the same time, it's the NBA and you have a job to do," interim coach Ed Tapscott said. "When you aren't winning, the good thing about the NBA is that you'll always have another opportunity in the next game, so it's mixed feelings. Obama or winning basketball games? That's a tough choice."

The Wizards (8-31) snapped a six-game losing streak with a 96-89 home win over the New York Knicks Friday night to have at least some momentum going into a trip that also includes games at Sacramento (Wednesday), in Los Angeles against the Lakers (Thursday) and at Portland (Saturday).

Tapscott said he will try to catch as much of the inauguration coverage as he can on TV but will rely heavily on his wife, Janis Thomas, who planned to attend some inaugural balls and other events.

Tapscott, a Washington native, was a part of the generation of African Americans who integrated private schools such as Sidwell Friends, where he attended high school in the late '60s. Coincidentally, Obama's daughters, Sasha and Malia, are attending Sidwell Friends.

Tapscott credits his father and mother, Ed Tapscott Sr. and Phyliss, for instilling in him an appreciation for education; in many ways, the election of a black president is the culmination of what that generation struggled to achieve for their children.

"For a person of my generation, I was born in the fifties, this is an event that is a part of a process that has been a long time coming," Tapscott said. "You feel a sense of personal satisfaction and certainly a sense of national pride as a result of it."

Wizards forward Caron Butler said his wife, Andrea, and other relatives are attending various events but he admits to being a little disappointed about the timing of the trip.

"That was something I was really looking forward to," Butler said. "Seeing it on television will be a little different and it's going to have a little different effect. I wanted to be there personally, be a part of history but my wife will be present recording everything, her and my baby brother. It's just crazy to be here in the city and not be able to enjoy the moment but that's the NBA. We have a job to do."

The trip will be one of the longest for the Wizards, who have lost five straight road games and are 2-16 away from Verizon Center. Six of the next seven are on the road.

Struggling in Golden State

The Warriors (12-29) are 3-7 in their last 10 games but are coming off a 119-114 home win over Atlanta on Friday night. Guard Stephen Jackson recently returned from a hamstring injury and scored 24 points in that game.

Like the Wizards, the Warriors have been decimated by injury all season. They've had 98 man-games missed because of injury and Coach Don Nelson has employed a league-high 26 different starting lineups, including 12 with a rookie.

Forward Corey Maggette, who signed as a free agent over the summer, recently returned to the lineup after missing 15 games and is averaging 20.9 points and 7.2 rebounds in his last six games. He had 24 in Friday's win.

Note: Guard DeShawn Stevenson (lower back pain) remains out but said his back is responding well to treatment and hopes to return soon. . . . Jackson averaged 34.5 points in the Warriors' two victories against the Wizards last season.

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