The Wizards once again are dealing with injuries as they seemingly always do. But maybe — just maybe — things actually have changed.
No Antawn Jamison, no problem. No Caron Butler, no problem. The Wizards got 32 points and seven assists from Gilbert Arenas, and a career-high 30 points along with six rebounds and two assists from Andray Blatche, another strong performance from Randy Foye, solid outings by Brendan Haywood and Fabricio Oberto, and a nice dirty-work job from Mike Miller. And don’t forget a nice well-rounded effort from DeShawn Stevenson. All that proved the recipe for success and an authoritative win over a less than great New Jersey Nets team. This was a team that the Wizards SHOULD have beaten, but to do so in such a big offensive and strong defensive manner is a bit impressive.
As Flip Saunders said before the game, now you see why Miller, Foye and Oberto were brought in this past summer. So if guys went down, the Wizards would be able to plug others in and remain afloat while waiting for their top dogs healed. Antawn Jamison wants to play right now. Caron Butler is another tough dude who loves the game and probably hated sitting tonight aswell. But the Wizards continue to hold Jamison out for another week-and-a-half to three weeks, and wanted to be cautious with Butler as well. They both must’ve felt better being able to watch and let their bodies heal rather than rushing back or trying to go at less than 100-percent as they would have last season.
–-> Gilbert Arenas had 32 points — his first 30-point game since November 14, 2007 — and looked just fine playing in a back-to-back. But his effectiveness didn’t come as a surprise to Saunders, who said all he knows is the ever improving Arenas, not the gimp D.C. fans and media have grown used to watching and holding their breath over.
“I haven’t been around here like you guys have the last two years. So all I know is, I’ve seen Gil in practices, and our practices are hard,” Saunders said. “If he can go back to back in our practices, he can go back to back in games. It also helps having randy with him, because it takes the pressure off him. He can almost rest a little bit as far as being off the ball. But he’s very serious and very committed about doing what he needs to do to keep his body ready to play. I saw him in the summer time playing, and he continues to get better and better and better, so I didn’t need to see [how he did on a back-to-back] from him.”
Arenas was efficient as they come tonight needing just 13 shots and going 11-for-12 from the foul line to get his 32 points. He had three turnovers, an improvement over last night’s seven.
Arenas gave his typical “I did fine” self analysis. But again had no problem talking about his teammates, and recalled the encouragement he received this past summer when learning of the trade for Foye and Miller and how it would improve things.
“The trade for me, I seen my assists go up,” he recalled. “You got two people who catch and shoot. Especially in a different offense where there is more room for people to actually make moves and get to the basket. Once I seen the trade, I knew my assists were going to go up.”
On Andray Blatche’s big night, Gil said: “He’s played fabulous since Tawn went down. We’ve been waiting for this, for four or five years now. He finally decided this would be the year. he put in the work and it’s showing.”
On JaVale McGee’s improvements: “JaVale is looking 100 times better than he did in training camp. I don’t know what clicked on with him, but the energy he brought the past two practices and these two games is what we’ve been needing,” Arenas said.
On Foye: “Randy is playing well. He’s hit shots, made plays. when he needs to get touches, I’ll slide to the two and let him dribble around and hit screens and find his rhythm. Same with me.”
–-> Andray Blatche was feeling good tonight, and for good reason. After the game he got dressed in a snazy suit and tie, accented by giant diamond studs and to top it off, a pair of dark shades. He playfully strutted through the locker room and joked that he didn’t feel like doing an interview, then bust into a laugh and sat down and said, “Alright, let me get for real. What’s up, y’all?”
We saw some crazy moves out of 7-Day Dray tonight, including a Hakeem-like up-and-under move that he said Sam Cassell taught him. When asked about all Dray’s new moves, which we haven’t seen, Flip Saunders joked: “[Blatche] hadn’t seen them either. If he hadn’t made the shots, he wouldn’t have had the chance to do them again.”
Dray’s response was a big grin and “Flip need to cool out. I’ve been doing this for awhile. Thye just happen to start falling for me!”
Getting serious, Blatche — who through three games is averaging 21 points and 6.3 rebounds — said his production is a result of his hard work this summer, and the tutelage of Cassell.
“Working out with Sam,” said Blatche, who was 5-for-5 out the gates. “Our workouts are always game-based. Coach puts me in situations I’m going to see in games and it’s working out with all my shots, so that my game is automatic.”
Last season Antawn Jamison was his harshest critic, but tonight, Jamison was giving 7-Day-Dray standing ovations after each big play. Another critic of Dray’s (his mother) also is pleased with the early results, he said.
“My mom is very happy about the progress I’ve made so far,” he grinned. “She just want me to stay focused and do what I’ve been doing. Tomorrow we got the day off, but I’m going to be in the gym with Sam, continuing to work hard.”
Blatche’s 30 points all came without a free throw, and it was the most points a Bullets/Wizards player has scored without a free throw Rex Chapman scored 32 without a free throw attempt in 1992.
–-> It will be interesting to see what happens with the shooting guard spot once Caron Butler returns to action. Randy Foye had a great game and has shown he does well alongside Gilbert. Mike Miller had two three-pointers tonight, but isn’t the scoring threat Foye is. Foye had 17 points and eight assists. He seems more comfortable sharing the floor with Gil and switching off and on from the 1 and 2.
“Randy is strong,” Flip said. “He’s in a tough spot having to switch back and forth from the 2 and the 1, but the one thing about him is he wants to be good, and he works to get better, and it’s not too many times that he makes the same mistake.”
Mike Miller is effective in his way (nothing wrong with 11 rebounds, three assists, two steals and nine points). BUT, while Flip Saunders is pleased with the all-around play he gets from Miller, he’d like to see more offensive aggression.
“He does a lot of little things, and that’s great, but the one thing I don’t want him to forget, is that he’s also good at shooting the ball,” Saunders said.
I wonder if Miller would be more comfortable coming off the bench and gunning, or, it just could take more time. He showed some improved aggression tonight, but it would be interesting to see if coming off the bench when he knows he is counted on for a scoring boost.
–-> It was good to see Nick Young finally put some points on the board after not playing on Tuesday, going 0-for-8 last night. He had five points on 2-for-5 shooting.
–—> I feel bad for Mike James, who’s got to be a little frustrated now that he has three DNP’s even after a blowout tonight. And Paul Davis got in!
–-> Finally, touched on defense in the pre-game blog, and the Wizards again held an opponent to a low percentage. They gave up a lot of points, but there was also a lot of possessions in this fast-paced game.
Well, that’s it for tonight, folks.