- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 1, 2006

The Wizards are in the company of the Cavaliers, Bulls and Nets in the Eastern Conference, the teams looking to be the best of the rest after the Heat and Pistons.

This tentative grouping is destined to shift during the interminable 82-game journey, fraught as it is with injuries, surprises and the vagaries of 15 men endeavoring to find a balance between the individual and the team.

Even one or two of the next grouping of conference teams, the Bucks, Pacers and Magic, could push themselves into the mid-level playoff mix.

The quality of the conference remains suspect, after all.

The Wizards have a genuine franchise player in Gilbert Arenas, who finally is receiving the national acclaim he so desperately has craved.

His challenge is to minimize his turnovers and pull the team out of its indifference on defense.

His background suggests he will achieve results in both areas.

When Arenas was last seen at work on Fun Street, he was in the process of missing two free throws in the waning seconds of Game 6, just after LeBron James had walked past him and offered a few words that planted the seed of doubt.

That was the implication of the exchange, which Arenas has dismissed on several occasions with a smile.

An inexplicable failing happens to even the best, as we know from the storied careers of Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson and Larry Bird.

It is left to Arenas to show that the momentary lapse in Game 6 was an aberration instead of a defect in his mental armor, as a few of the armchair shrinks opined last spring.

The Wizards have a worthy threesome in Arenas, Caron Butler and Antawn Jamison and a competent supporting part in Antonio Daniels.

The rest of the cast is open to questions.

Jarvis Hayes has almost two years’ worth of inactivity to overcome.

DeShawn Stevenson has to show he is the defensive gem he was made out to be in training camp.

Story Continues →