CLEVELAND — Washington Wizards coach Flip Saunders will contine with his preseason experimentation and will start a big lineup of Gilbert Arenas, Caron Butler at shooting guard, Antawn Jamison at small forward, Andray Blatche at power forward and Fabricio Oberto at center.
This lineup, which features a 6-7 shooting guard, 6-9 small forward, 6-11 power forward and 6-10 center has the potential to give teams some fits. The Wizards could have gone even bigger had the 7-foot Brendan Haywood been available, but he is expected to rest his sprained ankle until Sunday, and won’t play tonight.
“Just another experimentation, see how they play together, give them an opportunity, play Caron some time at the two,” Saunders said. “It’s just a different opportunity, different lineup, see how they play together. Caron and Antawn aren’t as familiar with the two and three spots, but I think they’ll figure it out.”
This isn’t likely the lineup the Wizards will regularly sport, but the Cavaliers won’t have a “normal” lineup tonight, either.
LeBron James is out with “flu-like symptoms” and isn’t even at the arena tonight. The Cavaliers will start Daniel Gibson at point guard, Jawad Williams at shooting guard, Anthony Parker at small forward, Anderson Varejao at power forward and Shaquille O’Neal at center.
It’s always a challenge to game-plan for opponents in the preseason given that teams are often experimenting and trying to evaluate talent. But Saunders said during the preseason, he doesn’t even waste time worrying about who will start opposite his players.
“These are the situations where you just worry about yourselves,” the coach said. “Worry about what you’re going to do from the offensive standpoint. We’re a little bit different than them because we’re instituting a whole new system, with new players, new coaching staff. And so, every time we can step on the floor, the repetition’s big for us. …
“I always say, ‘In the NBA there’s not bad players. There’s bad teams, but not bad players.’” Saunders said. “So you have to go out and respect who you’re playing against because even though some guys don’t play, it always seems someone’s going to show up. I’ve never seen a team get shut out in the NBA. So someone’s going to find a way to score.”
One player Saunders definitely doesn’t have to worry about taking the Cavaliers lightly is DeShawn Stevenson, who preseason or not, is taking this game seriously because he is still the most hated man in Cleveland because of a public spat with with LeBron James during the 2008 playoffs.
The Wizards arrived in Cleveland last night, and Stevenson and his teammates got off the plane and quickly was reminded of his unpopularity here.
“People still acting crazy. I got in an incident last night. Got off the plane and you know the dude that waves the wand to land the plane? Me, Caron and [team security chief] Jackie Miles got off the plane and he taps me on my shoulder and was like, ‘I hate you.’ True story! You can ask Caron! He’s like ‘I hate you.’ I was like, you know I can’t cuss [in the media], but I said something to him. It’s just crazy that it’s still going on, but it’s our rivalry, but you know Twan’s with me, Caron’s with me, Gilbert’s with me. As long as I got my brothers with me, it’s always going to feel like a playoff run, even in the preseason.”
Stevenson said he doesn’t ever expect his status in Cleveland to change no matter how much time passes.
“I think that I will never be here, I think that I will never come here. I think that if I’m in a different jersey it’s still going to have that effect. I think that I’ll probably be in a rivalry somewhere else because this team pretty much don’t like me,” Stevenson said before breaking into a laugh.