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05-09-2006, 10:08 AM
Washington Post article with some small comments about the Ps.


Mike Wise

Tuesday, May 9, 2006; Page E01

The larger issue was the Wizards' inability to put their heel on the throat of their opponent when Cleveland was down. The issue was closing out, finishing the job, moving on. This team never got that.

Last offseason, Eddie Jordan's great hope was for the Wizards to get better defensively. The day his players cleaned out their lockers this year, he said, "No more wish lists."

Fine, but that doesn't mean we can't have one. Herewith, our five-point plan to put the Wizards on an NBA Finals path.

1. Keep the Core Together, Unless . . .

When an organization says, "We don't have any bad guys in the locker room," in modern, prima donna times that says a lot. There is no knucklehead quotient on the Wizards. Good guys can finish first, as the Spurs proved three times in seven years. But the No. 1 priority of the offseason has to be acquiring a major post presence for two or more players who haven't filled that role.

Wizards President of Basketball Operations Ernie Grunfeld may have to dangle the team's first- or second-round draft pick (Nos. 18 and 48) and some kind of combination of Jared Jeffries, Brendan Haywood and Etan Thomas to accomplish that goal. This is not an endorsement to move Antawn Jamison, because his attitude and professionalism are irreplaceable. But he might have to be part of such a deal.

Do you take a gamble on Kenyon Martin, an enigmatic hothead whom Denver wants gone? Given the big men you could trade to Indiana, would Larry Bird even listen to a deal for Jermaine O'Neal? Arenas was right when he said there are but three great pivots left. Shaquille O'Neal and Tim Duncan aren't going anywhere and Kevin Garnett is 30.

Still, you need someone bigger and nastier to close down the lane if you ever plan on getting by Detroit or Miami, let alone Cleveland. Leave most of the pieces intact, because nothing begets titles more than continuity in the NBA. Yet don't forget the real reason why the Heat and Pistons will meet for the conference title: Shaq and Ben Wallace.

4. Market Your Past or Lose Your Future.

But part of the problem is the Wizards' fault. They need to do a better job selling their product, and it starts with game-night production.

First, do away with that ridiculous, bass-thumping sound machine that annoyingly intones, "DEE-FENSE! DEE-FENSE!" It's insulting to every fan who might want to begin the chant themselves.

Second, there is not enough sense of the District's hoop history anywhere in the arena.

They should do what the Pacers have done in Indiana, co-opting the idea of the Hoosier existence in Conseco Fieldhouse. Have someone paint a mural of Earl Monroe and Wes Unseld. Let all of the District's next great consumers -- the Singles Night, I-got-these-seats-through-mycompany crowd -- know that Monroe, Unseld, Elvin Hayes, Phil Chenier, Bobby Dandridge and Walt Bellamy played for owner Abe Pollin way back when. Have a halftime reunion honoring those players during the playoffs.

Most franchises with that kind of tradition put together a video montage for the playoffs that make you feel a part of something larger than merely Game 6. Sometimes, it feels like the Wizards' history began with the Big Three.