- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 20, 2005

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — It sounds as if Gilbert Arenas got the message.

The third-leading scorer in the league and the reigning Eastern Conference player of the week was on the bench at the start of the third quarter last night in the Washington Wizards’ 89-83 loss to the New Jersey Nets.

Arenas wore his black pregame shooter’s shirt over his jersey and sat at the end of the bench until coach Eddie Jordan sent him back into the game with 2:55 left in the quarter of what turned out to be the Wizards’ third straight loss.

Jordan summed up his position by saying it was “coach’s decision to begin the third quarter with what I thought was going to show a little bit more discipline than the first half and one that executed better and made a commitment to defend. I thought that five was what we needed at that time. That was my decision.”

Arenas didn’t have any assists in the game, and his six turnovers left him with 18 over the past three games. Seemingly tired of answering questions about Arenas, Jordan finished talking to the media by saying, “This is about the Washington Wizards, not necessarily about Gilbert Arenas.”

Arenas, an All-Star last season, has been benched before by Jordan, who has been warning for the last week he would start reducing the playing time of anyone who didn’t start playing better defense and exhibiting more discipline.

Arenas, who scored 17 points on 6-for-17 shooting, said he understood Jordan’s actions.

“It was one of those days where mentally I wasn’t in it,” Arenas said. “If you are not mentally in it, then anybody can stop you.

“I’m an All-Star, I’m averaging 27 and I wasn’t playing that way in the first half,” Arenas continued. “He decided to make me come off the bench to see how my attitude was. I came back strong in the second half. We just didn’t come up with the win.”

Any hard feelings over the decision?

“No,” Arenas said.

Was it a good message to send? Arenas actually said it was.

“If he can do it to me, he can do it to anybody,” Arenas said. “You have to do what it takes to get the respect of the players. So he did it. I’ve just go to get ready for our next game.”

The Wizards (5-4), who were led by Antawn Jamison’s 23 points, 13 rebounds and six steals, clearly are not playing as well as they did in their 5-1 start. A poor free throw shooting team already, they were just 17-for-31 at the line last night.

And the crisp ball movement that characterized their early wins was nonexistent last night. While the Nets finished with 27 assists on 34 field goals, the Wizards, who shot only 37.8 percent (31-for-82) from the field, had just 14 assists.

Vince Carter scored 19 points to lead five Nets (5-4) in double figures. Richard Jefferson added 16 points, 13 rebounds and five assists, and Jason Kidd and Cliff Robinson both added 12 points for the Nets. Nenad Krstic scored 11.

After trailing by eight points at the end of the first quarter, New Jersey went ahead for good when reserve Zoran Planinic nailed a 3-pointer with a little more than seven minutes left in the game.

The Wizards return home Tuesday for a game against Denver. In the meantime they have two days of practice to get things right.

“We’ve said all along that we don’t know about this team until we face adversity,” Jordan said. “We are facing adversity in the last couple of weeks, and there are small cracks in the armor. Whether they are discipline cracks, emotional cracks or just not-playing-together cracks, it’s my job to seal the cracks up.”

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