Game Notes: Cleveland vs. Washington

-This was the first game the Big 3 of Arenas, Butler and Jamison have played together since last year, when their opponent was also the Cleveland Cavaliers.  On that night, the Wizards snapped the 13 game winning streak of the Cavs, 109-101. During that game, Arenas had 11 points, 10 assists, Butler had 25 points and Jamison had 19.  Tonight, the Wizards snapped a five game losing streak of the Cavs and they won 108-91.    This time, Jamison was the lead scorer with 31 points and 10 rebounds, Butler had 19 points and 6 rebounds, and Arenas, despite shooting 6-for-22 from the field, had 18 points, 8 assists and 6 rebounds.

-Before the game, Coach Mike Brown went into detail about why Shaquille O’Neal would not be playing. “I’ve pulled him out out practices so far..a couple of practices, and it might be because he has a little ding here, a little ding there, so I’ll just say, big fella’ sit down,” Brown explained.  “And that’s what this is. Does he have a ding? Yes. It’s early in the year, we all have a better comfort level than we had in game one, game two, game three, and so in my opinion, its an opportune time to let him get some rest and let him get his body back.”

-When Coach Saunders was asked about O’Neal’s absence, he didn’t sound like a man who was relieved,  “They still have Illgauskas who in some ways makes it more difficult to defend LeBron James…he’s more of a perimeter type player who takes 15, 16 foot face up shots, and it opens the floor for LeBron to get to the rim.”

-I tried to talk to Delonte West prior to the game, and told me he really didn’t want to talk at length. He said he was handling his legal issues and right now he wanted it to be all about basketball.  The journalist in me wanted to probe deeper and ask him more pointed questions, but it just didn’t seem like the time nor the place.  People from Michael Wilbon to Lisa Salters (from ESPN) were coming up to him and offering words of encouragement.  For me to do anything to the contrary just would have been irresponsible.  I’m sure I’ll wrestle with that decision later.  As I walked away, West stopped me and said, “No hard feelings man, we’re cool right?”.  I said of course, shook his hand and walked away.  There’s a world class article to be had with Mr. West, and I hope to one day nab it.

-When I talked to Phoenix Suns coach Alvin Gentry about when he thought it was fair to judge how good his team was, he explained that the 25 game mark was an effective barometer.  When Michael Wilbon asked Cavaliers Coach Mike Brown that same question, he had a different take.  “I’d like to start to peak and keep heading that direction right around the end of February, that’s the time I like to say, let’s get busy and lets continued to do this, ” Coach Brown explained.  “Before then, you know for me personally, you don’t like to lose games, but sometimes when you have a good team, you need to get hit in the mouth.   Guys, including myself as a head coach, we just full of ourselves and it brings you back down to reality and it helps you understand this is a process.”  At the conclusion of tonight’s game, Wizards coach Flip Saunders was asked that same question, and he had his own unique take on the matter.  “It usually takes 20 games, I think almost every coach you talk to, or anyone considered an expert like you guys[the media] are would say probably 20 games.”

-Antawn Jamison played his first game of the season after suffering a subluxation of the right shoulder in a preseason game against the Cavaliers, and then battling the flu last week.  When I spoke with Andrew Pearle, M.D., an orthopedic surgeon at Hospital for Special Surgery’s Sports Medicine and Shoulder Service in New York about the risks associated with a subluxation, he mentioned that rest is important, but the threat of a re-injury depends on the person. According to Dr. Pearle, Candace Parker and Chris Webber had more severe cases of this injury, and they eventually needed surgery.  Dr. Pearle also added that if Jamison’s shoulder came out of socket again after this month of rest, then surgery would be a must and he’d most likely miss six months. Jamison, who wore a protective sleeve, did not show any ill effects from the injury during the game.  When I asked him how the shoulder felt after the game, he had nothing but good things to say.

-The “I’m Lebron James” moment came with four minutes left in the third quarter. LeBron James came down and drained a three.  Then the Wizards went down the court, and Gilbert Arenas attempted a three pointer as well, but it was bricked off the backboard.  The Cavs went back down the court, and James hit yet another three to put the Cavs up by six, and Coach Flip Saunders immediately called a timeout. James stared down the Wizards bench, then we back to his own as if to say, “That’s right ladies and gentlemen, that is why I’m LeBron James.”  LeBron finished 34 points and nine assists, but even was not able to lead his team to victory on this night.

-The stat sheet will show that Arenas shot 6-for-22 from the field, and even in person, there were times when he forced the issue and tried to shoot his way out of his slump.  In the first half he shot just 1-for-9, and he had six points.  But in the second half, he played a bit better and found his stroke.  Even Arenas noticed this inconsistency,  “I just can’t find two halves to match right now. I just gotta get it together…I had one bad half, and I figured the second one would get better.”  What will not show up in the stat sheet is his solid defense on Mo Williams.  Williams who is widely considered to be the second best player on the Cavaliers squad scored just six points in 36 minutes.

-The lineup of Caron Butler, Mike Miller, Andray Blatche, Earl Boykins and DeShawn Stevenson played nearly nine minutes in  fourth quarter and took  the Wizards lead from three to as much as 18 points.  This lineup faced both the first and second teams of the Cavaliers, and they were still able to stand firm and thwart any comeback the Cavs tried to muster.  Butler and Miller did most of the scoring with a little help from Boykins., and Stevenson and Blatche did the “meat and potatoes’ (as Coach Saunders called them) to keep the Wizards afloat.  During this time, Jamison, whose conditioning is not yet where it needs to be, was able to rest, and Arenas was able to ice his knee.

-Last year when the great Hubie Brown came to Verizon Center, I was never able to talk or formally introduce myself to him, because he was on the run, and I was timid.  This time around, I saw Hubie in the Cavs locker room, I introduced myself to him, and he shook my hand and asked me what I thought about today’s game.  I told him the Wizards would win, and he should say that on television.  He looked at me and laughed and said, “Nice try, kid.”  Rejection never felt so good.

-Gilbert Arenas summed this night up perfectly when he said, “He[Jamison] dominated that first quarter, Mike Miller dominated the second, I dominated the third, Earl Boykins and Caron finished up the fourth, we just had an all balanced performance tonight.”

Rashad Mobley
Rashad Mobley is a senior writer for Hoops Addict who has covered the Washington Wizards with media credentials since the 2008-2009 NBA season. He has appeared on Fox Sports Radio and KRNU 90.3.
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