-During his pre-game press conference, Coach Flip Saunders addressed the health of both Caron Butler and Antawn Jamison. Butler bruised his left knee against the Hawks on Friday, and the lingering soreness caused him to miss tonight’s game. He had an X-ray and an MRI but no damage was found, and he is expected to play against Cleveland on Tuesday. Jamison, who looked great during the shootaround prior to the game, is still scheduled to be out a couple more weeks with that subluxation in his right shoulder. When Saunders saw Jamison shooting seemingly pain free, even he took notice. “I went down and saw him in game shorts and I thought he was going to play and I got excited,” Saunders remarked to the media. “He wants to play he thinks he can play, but we’re being a little bit more cautious.”
– Also before the game, Saunders mentioned that the on-court intelligence of Gilbert Arenas, both offensively and defensively has been a pleasant surprise. “He[Arenas] understands concepts, he understand where he supposed to be… and understanding what you’re supposed to do is half the battle.” Considering Arenas’ love-hate relationship with former Wizards coach Eddie Jordan, it has to be a good omen that his new coach is already singing his praises. Considering two of the Big 3 are out (Jamison and Butler), it’s important for Arenas and the coach to be on the same page.
-One cannot help but wonder if the Wizards are now being extra cautious with the injuries to Jamison and Butler, because of how Arenas’ injuries were handled during the past couple of years. Both Arenas and the members of the Wizards’ front office agreed that he came back from his knee injuries a bit too soon, and as a result he is just now regaining All-Star form. Arenas took it one step further, and was highly criticial of Wizards’ team doctors during the offseason. Even though at first glance, it looks like Jamison and Butler can fight through their injuries and return to the court, the team seems to be making absolutely sure, that players are healthy before they set foot on the court again.
-Devin Harris was out both today and for Monday’s game against Charlotte, with an injured groin. According to Dave D’Alessandro of the Star-Ledger, Coach Frank is saying Harris is day-to-day, but Harris himself is thinking he’ll be out 7-10 days. Rafer “Skip to my Lou” Alston started at point guard in his place, and rookie Terrence Williams backed him up. Alston scored 20 points and handed out eight assists, and Williams had nine points and two assists. When I spoke to Williams before the game about facing Arenas he said, “I looked up to the guy even before I got to the league, so to go up against him now is a dream come true for me.”
-The Wizards starting lineup tonight consisted of: Arenas, Miller, Foye, Oberto and Haywood. None of them were on the Wizards’ opening day active roster last year.
-One fun exchange happened in the last 20 seconds of the first quarter. During an inbounds play, Arenas was whistled for a offensive foul, and he was so upset that he ran down to the other side of the court, and complained to the referee. Just a few seconds later, as time expired in the quarter, Arenas hit a three point shot from just inside the half court line. As he walked back to the bench, he calmly glared at the referee. Not to be outdone, DeShawn Stevenson showed his own flair for the dramatic as well, by driving coast-to-coast to end the second quarter.
-Chris Douglas-Roberts is getting extended playing time for the Nets due to the injury to Nets forward (and former Wizard) Jarvis Hayes, and he’s making the most of it this evening. After averaging just seven points in his first two games, Douglas-Roberts had 25 points tonight in a loss, and he finally resembled the player he was at Memphis. He’s scoring from both inside and out, he looked comfortable handling the ball, and he showed a tenacity on defense that was missing when I watched him play last year. It will be interesting to see what Coach Lawrence Frank does with his playing time when both Harris and Hayes are completely healthy.
– Coming into this game, the Wizards were without Butler and Jamison, which meant that someone had to step up tonight besides Arenas, and tonight that person was Andray Blatche, who had a career high 30 points. There were the 18 foot jumpers that came after a behind-the-back move; there was an up and under move. At one point, Blatche even passed up an open shot to get Nick Young his first basket late in the game. That type of unselfishness is usually not a part of Blatche’s game. In just 26 minutes of play, Blatche had 30 points, and he shot a blistering 83% (15-18 from the field). After the game, Haywood remarked, “My son, my son, I’m so proud of my son.” When one writer asked Saunders to comment the full array of new moves Blatche unveiled tonight, Coach Saunders quipped, “He had never seen those shots either, and if they hadn’t gone in, he’d have never shot them again.”
-Even though I am a writer, and I’m supposed to be objective, I must say it was a pleasure seeing Gilbert Arenas back to playing at an elite level. After an inconsistent preseason that saw him alternate between being passive and overly aggressive, Arenas has seemingly found a balance between the two. Tonight, in just 29 minutes of play, Arenas scored 32 points and dished out seven assists. As Coach Saunders observed after the game, Arenas probably could have had four or five more assists had his teammates not gotten fouled on their way to the basket. The season is still early, and I know that he will still have both up and down games, but it was good to see Arenas in rare form for the home opener.
-The Wizards shot 61%, from the field, 64.3% from the three point line, and 78% from the free throw line. With those types of shooting percentages, they will rarely lose.
-The type of Wizards blowout victory was virtually non-existent last year, when Haywood and Arenas were out due to injury. Tonight, even with Jamison and Butler out, the Wizards were still able to put away this young Nets team with relative ease. The reason? Quality depth which allowed for a balanced attack. Everyone except Dominic McGuire and Mike James scored, and everyone picked up the slack in one way or another. Mike Miller grabbed 11 rebounds, Fabricio Oberto handed out five assists, and DeShawn Stevenson’s defensive intensity was impressive. As Foye said after the game, “Injuries are no excuse, we have to step and play hard.” How balanced was the Wizards play? The first five questions during Saunders post-game press conference had nothing to do with Gilbert Arenas.
-I can honestly say that I tried to talk to Gilbert Arenas after tonight’s game, but the crowd of reporters around him was monstrous. And once he started talking, his answers were soft, short and sweet. Arenas said before the season that he was tired of talking, blogging and clowning, and it was time for his play to speak volumes. As a journalist, I must say its disappointing that he’s not talking, but if he continues to put up 32 points and seven assists in 29 minutes, I cannot complain at all. As nba.com writer and TNT sideline reporter, David Aldridge said, “I don’t know a great player that hasn’t at one point blamed the media.”
-Please stay tuned to Hoops Addict for my article on guard Randy Foye who continues to play well for the Wizards.
Final score: Wizards 123 Nets 104