INCREDIBLY, THE BIGGEST stink coming out of our nation's capital these days is not emanating from Congress. The source of that stench, my friends, is the Washington Wizards.The Wizards began the 2011-12 NBA season 0-8 and began this season 0-12. These are what those of us who've followed the NFL for a long time call "Sam Wyche numbers."The Wizards managed to win their first game of the season last week - they blew a 15-point fourth-quarter lead at home to the Portland Trail Blazers but survived, 84-82 - and currently stand 1-13.At 1-13, the Wizards still have a reasonable chance to surpass two historic NBA benchmarks: Worst 82-game season ever, 9-73, by the 1972-73 Philadelphia 76ers and worst winning percentage ever, .106, by last season's 7-59 Charlotte Bobcats.
In fact, I just sat down over the weekend with data maven Nate Silver, and after crunching the numbers we are projecting the Wizards to finish 5-77. Silver's statistical models are so good, we can even pinpoint the remaining four games the Wizards will win this season: Dec. 22 vs. Detroit, Dec. 26 vs. Cleveland, Jan. 28 vs. Sacramento and April 3 at Toronto.Anyway, if you ever wondered what an NBA team might look like post-apocalypse, this season's Wizards might be it.The Wizards' malaise is more than a generation old, but the current decline began in 2008 when the team insanely gave Gilbert Arenas a six-year, $111 million contract. This would be like the Vatican elevating Father Guido Sarducci to cardinal for life.As it were, the Wizards, over the last four seasons, are 19-63, 26-56, 23-59 and 20-46. The last time they made the playoffs was 2008, the last time they won a playoff series was 2005 and the last time they won an NBA title - their only time - was 1978.It's a losing culture, sort of like the Clippers minus Billy Crystal.(Column Intermission: After a couple of deplorable seasons, my NFL Teams of Destiny glass is half-full again. Rewarded by my faith in Peyton Manning, my Denver Broncos pick might make me look like the genius I once was. On the other hand, my pick of the once-bountiful, scarlet-scorned New Orleans Saints - who started 0-4 - makes me look like the idiot I have become.)
At the moment, the Wizards' coach is Randy Wittman, a 2lst-century Red Klotz, the biggest difference being Klotz was supposed to lose every game. Wittman has the lowest winning percentage (.311) of any active NBA coach, with a 119-251 career record.Wittman lost in Cleveland (32-50 and 30-52 seasons), he lost in Minnesota (12-30, 22-60, 4-15) and now he's lost in Washington (18-31, 1-13). He's proven he can lose anywhere, anytime, under any conditions, which gives him a bright future with perpetually losing franchises.This season's Wizards are the lowest-scoring (89.4 points per game), worst-shooting (40.3 percent) team in the NBA.On my last trip to D.C., someone offered me Wizards tickets. I politely declined and went and stood in the Bureau of Engraving and Printing lobby instead.Going to Verizon Center for a Wizards game is roughly equivalent to going to Kohl's for a tube-sock sale - you just hope there's not a whole lot of traffic because, once you arrive, there's not a whole lot of excitement.
I had a root canal two weeks ago that pained me less than watching the Wizards.
In the Wizards' defense, their two best players, John Wall and Nene, have been sidelined virtually all season.The Wizards have tried a variety of starting lineups, sometimes changing daily, depending on who's arriving at the docks.Which leads us to my favorite column-closing parlor game, "Name That Wizard."The follow paragraph lists six members of the Washington Wizards and six members of President Obama's Cabinet. It's your charge to figure out who belongs to which team. Good luck! Here we go:Ken Salazar, Kevin Seraphin, Jan Vesely, Tom Vilsack, Eric Shinseki, Earl Barron, Martell Webster, Cartier Martin, Ray LaHood, Hilda Solis, Shaun Livingston, Shaun Donovan.
(Correct answers will be published after the Wizards' next victory, on Dec. 22.)Ask The SlouchQ. According to NFL rules, a receiver must complete a "football move" to be considered as having control of the ball on a reception. Do you know if doing a salsa dance would meet this requirement? (Eugene Shepard; Florence, Mont.)A. Pay the man, Shirley.Q. If the Spurs owe David Stern $250,000 for "doing a disservice to the league," how much should the Wizards be on the hook for? (Dave Weiss; Passaic, N.J.)A. Pay the man, Shirley.Q. Will Maryland's competitive eating team also move to the Big Ten? (Jack Litchfield; Shaker Heights, Ohio)A. Pay the man, Shirley.Q. If the NHL season ended today, would all 30 teams make the playoffs? (Kevin T. Ulmer; Pittsburgh)A. Pay the man, Shirley.You, too, can enter the $1.25 Ask The Slouch Cash Giveaway. Just e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org and, if your question is used, you win $1.25 in cash!