After starting the season 2-1, the Washington Wizards have lost six straight games. To make matters worse, several players are already battling injuries, making the absence of Antawn Jamison that much more devastating.
Despite all the hard work the Wizards put in over the offseason, their tendency towards frailty haunts them.
With Jamison's return pending, the Wizards have had to turn to Andray Blatche to fill the void. Though Blatche has performed admirably, he doesn't hold a candle to Jamison in any phase of the game.
If there is one thing that is apparent, it is that the Wizards are lost without Jamison. Not only does he give them 20 points and 10 rebounds a game, but he is the heart and soul of the team.
Jamison is the conduit through which the success of the Wizards flows. He also has a hand in keeping Gilbert Arenas in check on the floor. It is apparent that Arenas is not the same player he was prior to his injury, but perhaps it is a mere consequence of existing without Jamison.
As if the 2-7 start wasn't bad enough, it has to come in the wake of Brendan Haywood's spectacular return.
Haywood has picked up the slack in the dirty work department for the Wizards. He is rebounding and scoring at career high levels, as well as blocking more than two shots per game. His totals may be inflated because of Jamison's absence, but he deserves more credit than he is being given thus far.
In an effort to bring in some leadership and maybe a spark, the Wizards signed pint-size point guard Earl Boykins earlier in the week.
The only problem with his excellent play is that his 20 points matched the team high for the Wizards and outdid Arenas' 19-point night.
A player who has been out of the NBA for a year should not be outdoing an entire NBA roster in his season debut, no matter how well he takes care of his body or how good his conditioning is.
Boykins' impressive season debut sheds light on the real problem the Wizards are facing. They flat out don't have an identity.
Flip Saunders is in his first year as head coach for the Wizards, and stands in stark contrast to former coaches Eddie Jordan and Ed Tapscott. After so many years in the Princeton offense, Arenas and Butler have yet to find their place in Saunders' system.
The initial prognosis on Arenas is that he is still adjusting to the game after missing the better part of the last three seasons.
Arenas looks like he doesn't have the same fire he once had. The fire that saw him talk the talk on his blog and walk the walk with a game winning "HIBACHI!" He has opted to keep his mouth shut and play, but there are far too many questions facing the Wizards to clam up now.
Saunders has tried to re-emphasize defense, but in the process the offense has fallen flat at crucial points in games. Not to mention the alleged best defensive player for the Wizards, DeShawn Stevenson, has cost the team a few games by failing to lock-down the likes of Dwyane Wade and Ben Gordon.
Is it too much to ask to keep Wade from averaging 40 points against the Wizards?
Excluding Saturday's loss to Detroit, most of the Wizards' losses have come via double digits. Injuries aside, how can they expect to win when Jamison returns if they can hardly compete without him?
If the Wizards do anymore waiting around for Jamison to come and save the day they will be hard-pressed to regain a winning attitude.
What if Jamison's return doesn't give the Wizards the boost they expect? The Wizards aren't built for the long run, and it looks like they aren't built for this season either. Arenas needs to show something to signal to the fans and the NBA that he still an elite player, and the Wizards need someone to step up and breathe some life back into the team.
If the Wizards don't start winning games or learning how to win with their backs against the wall, this season will surpass the level of futility exhibited last year.