The Chosen One has been mortal for two games and it still doesn't matter.
Brendan Haywood emerges from Eddie Jordan's kennel on Wednesday, delivers hard fouls and talks junk to Cavs super-sub Anderson Varejao, the Brazilian Carrot Top. He contributes 13 of the 38 unlikely points scored by the Wizards' bench. And they still go down.
Washington's five at one point was Haywood, Antonio Daniels, Roger Mason, Michael Ruffin and Darius Songaila. Never mind an NBA playoff game; it's hard to win summer league runs with that lineup.
You want to take shots, poke fun, like the text message inquiring whether a Jarvis Hayes shot (he started 0 for 10) statistically could be counted as a turnover.
But it just feels like piling on. Most of Jordan's club played hard and smart and still couldn't do anything more than put a late scare into a Cavaliers team that closes worse than Chad Cordero. This was the night you felt more sorry than contempt for them. Without Gilbert Arenas and Caron Butler, this was the night they showed they simply don't have enough.
When Cleveland's Drew Gooden hits baseline fadeaways in your mug, when Daniels, Hayes and DeShawn Stevenson chip paint off the rim, combining to miss 26 of 35 shots, there is not much you can do to avoid 0-2.
No Agent Zero. No Tough Juice. No shot.
Jordan came into the locker room after the Wizards fell to the Cavs, 109-102, and told his team it was "right there," that LeBron James and Cavs' extras did their part by holding serve at home, and now it was up to Washington to do the same at the Phone Booth on Saturday and Monday in Games 3 and 4. That's what a coach has to say.
The reality is, winning one game in this best-of-seven first-round series is going to be a chore for the Wizards. Gauging by the competitiveness they showed Wednesday night, they should prevent the sweep and bring it back to Cleveland for Game 5. But after that, don't expect anything more and don't give them grief for anything less.
That means no more harping on Antawn Jamison's defensive deficiencies. He's now averaging 29.5 points and 12 rebounds in two games, doing everything possible to keep his team in it.
It also means the incessant criticism of Eddie Jordan's decisions should hush. Today.
You want to take on a coach, take on Avery Johnson. Or Pat Riley. You take Dirk Nowitzki and Josh Howard off Dallas and Shaquille O'Neal and Dwyane Wade off Miami, and neither team gets a game off their first-round opponent. So enough parsing Jordan's decision to play or not play Andray Blatche or give Haywood more minutes than Jamison.
For all the hope Doug Collins was supposed to bring and every other interim miracle worker, Jordan is the first coach to take Washington to three straight playoff appearances since Gene Shue. You want to question his ability to take this team to the next level? Wait till he's got a bona fide roster at least.
We could take on the poor decisions made by Hayes and Daniels to stop-and-pop instead of penetrate. And there's no dismissing the offensive rebounds and second shots given up by the Wizards down the stretch. But there is a larger window to look at the last three weeks through. To what kind of team might Arenas and Butler return next season?
It's not too early to talk about backing up the truck. We'll start with the obvious. Calvin Booth, Mason, Ruffin and Donell Taylor most likely are gone. So is Hayes, as much as you would like to see him find his confidence before he leaves Washington. The bigger questions are: What kind of takers can you find for Etan Thomas? And should you match Stevenson's market value and keep him as a complementary player to Butler and Arenas?
Songaila can flat-out play. You put him on the floor with Big Three and one other legitimate big man, that's a 50-win squad. Haywood is another question mark. How do you move a relative bargain of a 7-footer ($5 million) if he shows occasional promise? The only way you jettison Haywood is if you can package him in a deal for a bona fide post presence. By possibly signing and trading Hayes in the same package, you're not going to get Kevin Garnett. But something better than Jamaal Magloire might come your way.
This all might sound rash and premature. But sitting here in the bowels of Quicken Loans Arena, on a night the Wizards gave the Cavs all they could handle before bowing again, it's not too early to be thinking about next season. They stayed in the game as well as they could with their back-court shooting woes. Jamison strapped the team on his back, and it still wasn't enough to knock off a deeper, healthier team.
There was nothing else they could do. This was the night the scrutiny stopped and the sympathy began.