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Give Wiz a chance

November 14, 2002|by DAN KAUFFMAN

kauffman@herald-mail.com

Have you watched a Wizards game lately?

I imagine the vast majority of you answered no. For five or so years, I would have been in the majority.

My main problem, not only with the Wizards but also with the NBA as a whole, was it bored me. Every possession was the same - the team's best player is isolated and goes one-on-one with the other team's top defender, resulting in a jump shot or a pass to someone else for a jump shot (Note to NBA fans: I realize this wasn't how it was, but it certainly seemed that way). I suspect part of my boredom also stemmed from the fact that the Wizards, uh, stunk.

Note the past tense.

Not only do the Wizards not stink this year, they're actually pretty good. What's better, they're fun to watch.

It's not for the reasons you might expect. Jordan may be Jordan, but aside from the rare drive to the rim, all he does is shoot fadeaway jumpers, which, Mike being Mike, is still somewhat fun to watch. Stackhouse is capable of slashing into the lane (a key component to the fun factor), but he, too, relies a lot on the mid-range jump shot (decidedly not fun). Larry Hughes, Bryon Russell, Christian Laettner, Brendan Haywood and Tyronn Lue are solid players, but be honest, no one (aside from their relatives) watches the Wizards because of them.

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The Wizards are fun because of their youth - specifically, Kwame Brown, Jared Jeffries and Juan Dixon.

Brown, a lost soul as a rookie last year, discovered the work ethic needed in the pro game and has been a solid contributor and at times dominant inside. He had 11 blocked shots in the team's first two games and has averaged 10.6 points and 8.8 rebounds per game. Whenever he's on the floor, there's the potential for something entertaining to happen. Remember, it's all about entertainment here.

Jeffries - who I believed would be a bust (which, of course, meant he'd be an instant success) - was sensational in the Wizards' loss to Seattle on Tuesday. His quickness off the floor, combined with his length and his youthful energy, makes him a fantastic offensive rebounder (enjoyment!). Plus, he has the ball-handling skills and the height to find his offense both on the perimeter and in the paint. As the 11th overall pick in this year's draft, he looks like a steal.

Dixon hasn't seen a lot of playing time yet. But every time he's seen action, he's provided a spark with his shooting (averaging six points and six minutes in the three games he's played) and on-the-ball defense. Of course, it's always fun watching guys you used to cheer for at Maryland having success in the pros.

(Memo to Jordan: Trade for Steve Francis. Just for me. I'm begging you. Give Houston everything it wants. I'm not asking for much.)

Thanks to these three guys, I find myself enjoying something I haven't cared for in a long, long time.

Perhaps it's time you gave the Wizards a try, too.




Dan Kauffman is a staff writer for The Herald-Mail. His column appears every other Thursday. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 7520, or by e-mail at kauffman@herald-mail.com

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