Wizards-Mavs pregame

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     DALLAS — The Washington Wizards will begin their redemption campaign in just under an hour as they take on the hosting Dallas Mavericks here at AmericanAirlines Center.

     The Wizards will start Mike Miller at shooting guard alongside Gilbert Arenas, Caron Butler, Fabricio Oberto and Brendan Haywood.

     The starters for Dallas will be Shawn Marion, Dirk Nowitzki, Eric Dampier, Quinton Ross and Jason Kidd.

     Tonight, after seeing Flip Saunders hold his key players like Gilbert Arenas, Caron Butler and Brendan Haywood back, limiting most of them to around 23 minutes a game, we’ll see the coach unleash them.

     “I’m ready; anticipating to see now that the pop-corn and butter’s all on, see how guys can perform in that situation when it really counts,” Saunders said. “The preseason’s a time to learn. The regular season starts and you see what you can carry over from the positives of preseason.”

     Everyone is waiting to see what kind of Gilbert Arenas takes the court: the Arenas that at times in the preseason passed up shots and worked to set up his teammates, the Arenas that attacks early and often, or somewhere in between that.

     And by ‘everyone’ waiting to see, I mean fans, media, even Flip Saunders.

     “I’m waiting like you,” the coach said. “I’m like everyone else, I’m waiting to see. I think he’s going to come out and i think he’ll be aggressive in the things that he does. Having not played [completely healthy since April of 2007], I’m sure he’s excited to play, and I’m sure he’ll get into a rhythm.”

     Expect to see a lot of Andray Blatche as he will be the first big man off the bench, and also a good dose of DeShawn Stevenson, who will be matched up with Jason Terry off the bench.

     Not many people are picking the Mavericks to contend with the Lakers and Spurs in the West, but Flip Saunders definitley isn’t counting Dallas out, saying any time they have “one of the toughest guys to matchup with in the league” in Dirk Nowitzki, and health to his supporting cast, they have a chance.

     “Do I wish I was playing a CYO team? Yes, rather than Dallas,” Saunders joked. “But you don’t have a choice of who you want. It’s not like college where you can schedule a Division III school. There’s only 29 teams you can play.

     “But I think it’ll be a good test for us because Dallas, no one really talks about them a lot in the West, but with the addition of Shawn [Marion], and when [Tim Thomas] is healthy, and some of the other guys, I think it’ll really add to them. And you’ve got [Jason] Kidd, and Jason [Terry] and Dirk [Nowitzki] being able to settle into their roles. And when they get Josh [Howard] back, they’ve got a chance to compete with all the teams in the West.”

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